Presented in collaboration with Gana Art
Curated by Kim Sunhee
February 16 - March 12, 2022
Opening Reception: February 15, 4-8PM

Helen J Gallery and Gana Art are pleased to announce Four Poems: Korean Abstraction, a group exhibition bringing together works by four renowned South-Korean artists Oh Sufan, Park Seo-bo, Shim Moon-seup, and Yeesookyung. Curated by veteran Asian art curator Sunhee Kim, this museum-scale exhibition offers a unique look at the ongoing dialogue between tradition and abstraction in Korean contemporary art. Alluding each artist’s practice to a poem, Four Poems celebrates each artist’s innovative approach to art-making and their remarkable contribution to art history.

Four Poems marks Gana Art’s first major project in the U.S. Coinciding with Frieze Los Angeles 2022, the exhibition provides a refreshing glimpse of the robust art scene in Korea prior to the inaugural Frieze Seoul in September.

About the Artists:

Oh Sufan (b. 1946, Jinju, Korea) has been exquisitely incorporating East Asian calligraphy tradition on canvas for the last forty years, depicting the harmony between humans and nature. Oh was formally trained in Eastern calligraphy and painting by his literati father, then later attended Seoul National University, where he learned Western academic painting. After he graduated, Oh participated in the Vietnam War, where he witnessed the fragility of humanity and the urgency for freedom. Reflecting upon his experience, Oh found abstraction—specifically the line—to be the perfect form to express freedom and contemplate the coexistence between humans and nature. In his work, Oh’s brushstrokes exuberate an unrestricted and vibrant presence as its deep hue starkly contrasts with the bright colors of the ground. For Oh, “line is the most natural way of expressing nature, human and mind.”

Oh received BFA in Painting at Seoul National University. He has had solo exhibitions at many spaces including his first solo show at Munhean Gallery, Gana Art Center, and the Kim Chong Yung Museum. He took part in a large number of group and international exhibitions at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA), Korea, the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, and the Haverford Art Museum. Oh was awarded the Kim Swoo-Geun Award and the Young Artist’s Award by the Korean Ministry of Culture and Public Information. His works are currently included in the list of collections of many institutions such as the MMCA, Gana Foundation for Arts and Culture, and the National Library of France in Paris.

Park Seo-bo (b.1931, Yecheon, Korea) is widely considered as one of the leading figures in contemporary Korean art and credited as the founder of the ‘Dansaekhwa’ movement. Growing up as a young adult during the Korean War (1950-53) and its aftermath, both Western and Korean influences informed his approach to painting. In his early career, Park visited Paris and was exposed to Western abstraction, especially ‘Art Informel,’ the concurrent movement in Europe. Soon after, Park began to incorporate more introspective methodology into his work borrowed from traditional Korean calligraphy as well as Taoist and Buddhist philosophy.

Park is best known for his painting series, Ecriture. Since the late 1960s, the series embraced the spiritual approach to explore the notions of time, space, and material. In earlier works from the series, Park repeatedly scored out the wet monochromatic surface with pencil, foregrounding the materiality of oil paint and graphite. The later works expand upon this heightened sense of materiality as well as Park's subtle, minimal composition by incorporating hanji, a traditional Korean paper hand-made from mulberry bark. This development, along with the introduction of color, enabled an expansive transformation of his practice while continuing the quest for emptiness through reduction.

Park has been highly praised throughout his career for championing Korean art. He received the Art Society Asia Game Changer Awards in 2018 and the Silver Crown Cultural Medal in Korea in 2011. His work has been exhibited internationally, including Langen Foundation, Neuss (2020); Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2019); Museum of Fine Art, Boston (2018); the Venice Biennale (1988 and 2015); Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul (2014); Portland Museum of Art, Oregon (2010); Singapore Art Museum (2008); Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna (2007); Tate Liverpool, UK (1992); Brooklyn Museum, New York (1981), and Expo ‘67, Montreal (1967). His work is included in the collections of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington; Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York; M+, Hong Kong; Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, UAE; The National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul; and the K20, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, amongst others. Park graduated from the painting department of Hong-Ik University in Seoul in 1954. He became Dean of the University in 1973 and received an Honorary Doctorate from there in 2000.

Shim Moon-seup (b. 1943, Tongyeong, Korea) is considered the pioneer of Korean contemporary sculpture, whose inquisitive, experimental approach to materiality challenged and broadened the medium of sculpture. Since the 1970s, Shim incorporated natural and industrial materials such as soil, stone, wood, and iron in his sculpture, achieving a delicate balance between the man-made and natural processes. His sculpture was in dialogue with concurrent movements around the work, such as Arte Povera, Minimalism, and Mono-ha. Since the mid-2000s, Shim expanded his practice to painting and photography while maintaining the ethos from his sculptural work. His recent painting series is inspired by the seascape from his hometown Tongyeong. Shim’s seemingly abstract, repetitive application of paint on canvas captures the rhythm, movement, and enormous energy of tides. The canvas plays a crucial role here, not as a simple background, but as an active agent appearing and retreating like a wave. For Shim, painting becomes a space where constant flow and rupture of meaning happens.

Shim was awarded the Excellence Award from the Henry Moore Grand Prize in 1981 and the Chevalier dans l'ordre des Arts et Lettres in 2007. He participated in Paris Biennale from 1971 to 75 and Venice Biennale in 1995 and 2001. Shim’s recent solo exhibition includes Blume Museum of Contemporary Art, Paju (2019); Wonjon Art Museum, Beijing (2018); National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Gwacheon (2017); Musee du Chateau du Kerguehennec, Bignan (2016); and Beijing Tokyo Art Project, Beijing (2015). Shim’s work can be found in the permanent collection of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary, Seoul; the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul; Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul; Sejong Center for the Performing Arts, Seoul; Total Museum of Art, Jangheung; Seoul Olympics Outdoor Sculpture Park, Seoul; Incheon Sculpture Park, Incheon; Mihama Outdoor Sculpture Museum of Art, Hukui; and Hakone Sculpture Park, Hakone.

Yeesookyung (b. 1963, Seoul, Korea) is an interdisciplinary artist living and working in Seoul, Korea. Yee combines histories—art historical, spiritual, and cultural—into unique objects, imagery, and performances that reflect both her personal heritage and a global borderless moment. Internationally known for her acclaimed Translated Vase series, Yee collects discarded porcelain shards from Korean ceramists who make reproductions of porcelain masterworks. She then uses these elements to create a unique contemporary sculpture by affixing the composite pieces together using the traditional method of repairing ceramics with gold.

Yee received both her undergraduate degree and MFA in painting from the National University in Seoul. She has recently been featured in the following solo exhibitions Whisper Only to You at the Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte in Naples, Italy (2019), Yeesookyung: Contemporary Korean Sculpture at the Asia Society in Houston, Texas (2015), as well as a major 10-year survey When I Become You that traveled from the Daegu Art Museum in Korea to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Taipei, Taiwan (2015). Yee’s work has been shown internationally at the 57th Venice Biennale (2017), the 18th Biennale of Sydney (2012), the Buson Biennale (2010), among others.

Yee’s works can be found in the permanent collections of the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Seoul, the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art in Seoul, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Philadelphia Museum of Art, IFEMA ARCO Collection in Madrid, Echigo-Tsumari City Collection in Japan, Saatchi Collection in London, and the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences in Sydney.

About the Curator and Galleries:

Sunhee Kim is an acclaimed curator who has served as director and curator at numerous key institutions in East Asia. Kim was the director of many museums such as Busan Art Museum, Kim Tschang Yeul Art Museum in Jeju, Daegu Art Museum, and Bund18 Creative Center in Shanghai. She also served as Director of the Chinese Contemporary Art Awards (CCAA) in China, Senior Curator at Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, Exhibition Department Director of the Gwangju Biennale, and the Chief Curator at Gwangju Art Museum.

Founded in 1983, Gana Art is one of the original contemporary art galleries in the Korean art scene. Presenting a wide range of genres including modern/impressionist, contemporary, and various work from established to emerging Korean and international artists, Gana Art remains one of Korea’s most prestigious and influential art institutions today.

Helen J Gallery is a contemporary art gallery based in Los Angeles. Specializing in Asian art and design, the gallery features vibrant programming and exhibitions geared towards embracing Asian culture and the diaspora. Our program aims to promote artists from various geographic locations and diverse backgrounds, foster cross-continental dialogue, and broaden the understanding of Asian culture in the Los Angeles area and beyond.

For press inquiries, please contact info@helenjgallery.com.