Korean Abstract Painting

A Formation of Korean Avant-Garde (Contemporary Korean Arts Series #10)


Korean Abstract Painting

Creations or new movements come from criticism of convention such as the movements of the US and Europe in modern painting after World War II. In the West, with their remarkable advancements of knowledge and technology, the two world wars began. The artists who experienced the war began the avant-garde movement. This art was different and innovative: Abstract Expressionism in the US and Art Informel in Europe. Conventional art merely focused on reproducing objects according to logical reasoning and compositions, whereas, these two movements put importance in artists’ action, intuition, and expression in making art.
This book explores the formation of post-war Korean abstract painting. First, it looks into the development of Korean abstract painting in the contemporary context.  Korean abstraction formed by contemporary events such as Japanese colonial rule, independence, the Korean war, the Cold War, and American Abstract Expressionism and Art Informel of Europe. Under Japanese colonial rule, Korean artists were deprived of advanced modern art and the opportunity to interpret it subjectively themselves. Moreover, the Korean war and the Cold War caused Korean artists to undergo a crisis of identity. Therefore, Korean artists’ rejection of conventional aesthetic principles and the institutionalized system could be aptly characterized as avant-garde.
Secondly, this book introduces eight representative Korean Abstract painters: Chang Ucchin, Kim Whan-ki, Yoo Young-kuk, Kim Byung-ki, Park Seo-bo, Chun Sung-woo, Youn Myeung-ro, and Choi Wook-kyung. Most of them used to be influenced by American Abstract Expressionism and Informel in Europe. However, they did not stick to foreign style. Korean artists used color stimulating psychology based on Korean sensitivity and concentrated on their independent thinking and action. Informel contributed to the formation of the avant-garde in Korea not with its style, but with its spirit of resistance as well as its search for freedom in creation.


Hee-Young Kim

  • BA in English Language & Literature, Seoul National University
  • MFA in Art Theory, Seoul National University
  • MA in Art History, University of Chicago
  • Ph.D. in Art History, University of Iowa
  • Professor of Department of Fine Art, Kookmin University
  • Former Professor at Hanyang University and the University of Alabama, USA
  • Art historian and art critic

Major publications

Twentieth-century Art Theory (미진사, 2013)
Harold Rosenberg’s Critique of Modernism (한국학술정보, 2009)
The Vestige of Resistance: Harold Rosenberg’s Action Criticism (2009)

160 pp.
LC# 2013949136
Softcover 15 x 22.5 cm
ISBN-13: 9781565913394
ISBN-10: 1565913396

Contemporary Korean Arts Series: