Figurative 1980s works showcased at Busan Museum of Art
BUSAN — Visitors to the Busan Museum of Art in the southern port city will encounter a group of grotesque portraits. One of them shows a man wearing a denim Jacket. Making a weird contrast with the jacket, which was the symbol of youth culture in the 1980s, the man’s face is deeply wrinkled and partly blurred. The work, created by artist Song Zoosub in the early 80s, is titled “Generation.”
Among the works is also a family portrait painting, which looks like a faded photograph. In the painting, the faces of the family members have been replaced by empty masks. The painting, which might suggest that the reality for many families is much different to the idea of a conventional nuclear family, is a 1982 work by Ahn Chang Hong. These works are part of the ongoing exhibition "Greatness of Everyday: Reversing the Narratives" that deals with figurative art in Busan in the 1980s.
The 80s in Korean art history is remembered as the era of two art groups that mixed like oil and water: one was a group of abstract artists led by Dansaekhwa, or Korean monochrome paintings, and the other was the group of Minjung artists, or people’s artists, who pursued social realism with strong political messages. However, there also existed important artists who created non-abstract work related to individual themes and accordingly are categorized as neither of the two groups. “This exhibition sheds light on these artists and explores the meaning of them in the Korean art history,” Ki Hey-kyung, director of the museum, said.
The exhibition features 120 paintings and sculptures by 26 Busan-based artists. Among the exhibits are also more surrealistic paintings like the “Alive” series by Kim Choonja. “When the artist felt her second baby wriggling and kicking, she became keen to the movements of every living organism surrounding her and expressed them in these paintings,” explained Kim Kyung-mi, curator of the exhibition.
“As Busan is known for figurative art, we prepared an exhibition of figurative art from the 1980s so as to show the identity of Busan art,” director Ki said. “Then, we came to the question what differentiates figurative art in Busan from that in Seoul. We saw figurative art in Busan tends to be more humorous and more grotesque. However, we found no fundamental difference.”
“Rather, what we discovered is that there existed abundant and various figurative art [both in Seoul and Busan] that was not included in Minjung art in the 1980s, whereas art historians have dealt with only Minjung art as figurative art in the 80s,” Ki continued. “The 80s’ figurative artworks not categorized as Minjung art also keenly explored the problems of ‘now, here,’ while they didn’t have a strong political propaganda like Minjung art.
“In particular, figurative artists in Busan worked individually and dealt with social issues through their individual problems. This exhibition is an attempt to establish a place in art history for those artists who had been neglected in the history of figurative art.”
The exhibition runs through Aug. 22. Booking in advance is required due to the pandemic. Admission is free.
BY MOON SO-YOUNG [email@example.com]