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Park Seo Bo: The Untiring Endeavorer

The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea (MMCA) presents a retrospective of Park Seo-Bo, an artist who played a pioneering role in the development of Korean contemporary abstract art and spearheaded the transformation of Korean contemporary art.

A driving force of the anti-Kukjon, the National Art Exhibition, statement of 1956, Park Seo-Bo entered Korean contemporary art history in 1957 as the country’s first informel artist. Adopting a retrospective format examining a lifetime of painting by a figure who not only established a unique body of work as an active standard-bearer for Korean monochrome (Dansaekhwa) from the 1970s forward but also left an imprint on Korean contemporary art currents as an educator and administrator, this exhibition will feature some 160 works ranging from Park’s earliest pieces to recent work produced in 2019.

The exhibition encompasses representative artworks of Park Seo-Bo’s early career in 1955 when he was still searching for the direction of his work; his Primordialis period, with pieces ranging from his rendering of the scars of injustice and destruction left by the war in the first Korean informel work Painting No.1 to his expression of energy toward life in the 1960s Primordialis series; his Hereditarius period in the 1960s and 1970s, which saw him adopting aspects of geometric abstraction and Pop art while employing his own unique color sense; his Early-écriture in the 1970s, which saw his artwork becoming a tool for self-cultivation through the repeated application of white paint and pencil strokes to the canvas; his Mid-écriture period, which saw him rediscovering traditional Korean hanji paper and color; and his Late-écriture period in which evidence of the human hand was eschewed in favor of an emphasis on deep and rich coloration.

Encompassing new and never-before-shown past works along with various archival materials, this exhibition will be an opportunity not only to explore the creativity of Park Seo-Bo's work as an artist employing his own unique methods to interpret the spirit and artistic language inherent to Korean art but also to gain a three-dimensional perspective on his stature within the currents of Korean contemporary art and examine its significance within art history.

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