NATURAL DYEING

September 10 - October 10, 2003

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


Gallery Korea is pleased to announce its newest exhibition, "Hues of a Millennium: A Glimpse of Natural Dyeing in Korea," featuring the works of Ok Ja Choi. Ms. Choi is a recognized expert in natural dyeing in South Korea, where she founded and oversees the Institute of Natural Dyeing in Andong. 
"Hues of a Millennium" will focus on the multihued quilts and finely shaded fabrics Ms. Choi produces at her Institute of Natural Dyeing. Delicacy of texture and shading define these handmade artifacts of Korean tradition. The many different colors shown in the exhibit share a certain subtlety of shade, which perhaps can be attributed to their origin in nature. Never ostentatious or gauche, each color seems modestly, limpidly reserved; the contrasting colors, sometimes surprisingly combined, featured in the quilts appear completely incapable of clashing with each other, but seem to coexist in an elegantly refined balance of mutual complementarity.
The delicately tinted fabrics and multicolored quilts are more than simply exquisite works of art, however; they are a link to Korea's ancient past and thousand-year-old tradition of natural dyeing.
The tradition of natural dyeing predates even the formal unification of Korea itself. From as far back as the third century, Chinese history books tell of the intricate beauty of clothes dyed in the Korean fashion, giving an account of golden fabric that was gorgeously detailed with colors of red, purple, and blue. During the Three Kingdom Period (53 CE - 668 CE), the wearing of magnificently colored clothing was synonymous with the aristocracy. Dyeing became more and more regulated by the government, especially in the Baekje and Silla kingdoms. In the Baekje Kingdom (18 BCE - 660 CE), for instance, the wearing of purple was a right reserved exclusively for kings and high officials. In the Silla Kingdom (57 BCE - 935 CE), which eventually unified the southern half of Korea, entire government agencies were set up to regulate the production of particular colors. 
Later dynasties saw the development of the geumbak process, in which gold powder and foil were fixed onto fabric. Also, the traditional Korean color system, or o-bang-saek, gradually came to be adopted. This five-color system was made up of red, made from safflowers; yellow, from gardenias; blue, from indigo; white, from ash water; and black, from one of a number of items including maple trees and pomegranate fruits. 
Indigo dyeing, one of the dyeing techniques that will be featured in "Hues of a Millennium," gained a certain mystique that has never worn off. Indigo dyeing, called jjok (?) in Korean, originated in India and traveled to Korea through China. This color, the most desirable and highly prized of all, became legendary for the laborious, lengthy process and enormous amount of expertise required to produce it. 
Aside from the aesthetic appeal of natural dyes, they are also noncarcinogenic and more environmentally friendly than chemical dyes. Another benefit of natural dyeing is that the properties of the dye plant are passed into the dyed fabric. For instance, since the indigo plant has a special component that repels moths, moths also stay away from all jjok-dyed fabric.
An opening reception for the exhibit will be held Wednesday, September 10, from 6 - 8 pm. As part of the reception, Ms. Choi will give a special workshop and demonstration showing some of the techniques of Korean natural dyeing. 
Gallery Korea is located on the sixth floor of 460 Park Avenue, on the corner of Park Avenue and 57th Street. The exhibit will be on display from September 10 until October 10. Regular gallery hours are from 10 am to 7 pm weekdays and from 10 am to 4 pm on Saturdays. The gallery will close early, at 5 pm, on Thursday, September 25. 
For more information about "Hues of a Millennium" or natural dyeing in general, please contact Rachel Van Kirk, public relations consultant, at (212) 759-9550 or at rachel@koreanculture.org. Gallery Korea Curator Eunhee Yang is available at (212) 759-9550 or via email at nyarts@koreanculture.org.



Miro Yoon