Park Saeng Kwang /Lee Wha Ja and the Spirit of Tradition

September 6 - October 5, 2001

Gallery Korea at the Korean Cultural Center New York
(460 Park Ave. 6th Floor, New York, NY 10022)

Gallery Korea is pleased to announce the opening of the exhibition Park Saeng Kwang / Lee Wha Ja and the Spirit of Tradition. With an exuberant late style, Park Saeng Kwang established an innovative re-examination of traditional Korean painting that transcended the turmoil in 20th century Korean culture following first, the Japanese occupation and later, the division of the nation. Park began exploring traditional Korean folk religion, which blends Shamanism with Buddhism. The Shamans in Korea are usually female, and their brightly colored robes, as well as the distinctive color patterns that decorate Korean temples, gave Park the formal means to articulate an aesthetic vision celebrating his roots and identity. As critic, Choi Yeol outlines in the catalogue accompanying the exhibition, Park’s paintings and those of his disciple, Lee Wha Ja reconcile Eastern and Western styles, and in doing so rejuvenate both modern art and traditional Korean painting. 
There is a significant parallel between notions of history, memory and identity that inform much contemporary art and the specifically Korean sensibility that Park Saeng Kwang, who was trained and had worked in Japan, struggled to recover in his painting. It is the vitality of folk customs that Lee Wha Ja celebrates as resistant to the rationalism of modernity and yet it is the freedom of modern experimentation that engenders the dynamic compositions of her painting. The mineral colors are applied with fish or animal bone glue and create a rich surface plane from which the image appears to expand towards the viewer. 

In 1985 Park Saeng Kwang was given a one-person exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris. This international recognition came only in the last year of his life, but it encouraged a greater respect for his achievements in his native Korea. This will be one of the most important exhibitions of the year for Gallery Korea as it marks the first time that Park’s revolutionary paintings will be exhibited in the United States. 

Miro Yoon