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Exhibition explores nearly fifty years of Korean and Japanese painting and sculpture
Installation view. Photo: Courtesy Blum & Poe, Los Angeles/New York/Tokyo.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- Blum & Poe is presenting Who Can Be Strangers? The Art of Mono-ha and Dansaekhwa, a collaboration with Adrian Rosenfeld Gallery, exploring nearly fifty years of Korean and Japanese painting and sculpture. The exhibition presents historical and recent work spanning the past five decades by Japanese Mono-ha artists Kōji Enokura, Susumu Koshimizu, Nobuo Sekine, Kishio Suga, and Katsuro Yoshida, Korean Dansaekhwa artists Ha Chong-hyun, Kwon Young-woo, and Yun Hyong-keun, as well as Lee Ufan, the Korean-born artist associated with both movements. This presentation acts as a starting point for a deeper course of forthcoming curatorial investigation of these two influential milestones in postwar art history, juxtaposed here for the first time in the West. The gallery would like to extend sincere gratitude to Adrian Rosenfeld for the opportunity to explore this significant art historical territory. Excerpted from a poem by 18th century haiku master Kobayashi Issa, the title alludes to an ongoing dialogue between the artists, both within their respective movements and between the two groups.

Emerging from postwar Japan, the Mono-ha (School of Things) artists consider the encounter between natural and industrial objects, such as glass, stones, steel plates, wood, cotton, light bulbs, leather, oil and water, arranging them in mostly unaltered, ephemeral states, directly on the floor or outdoors. The meditative arrangements focus as much on the interdependency of these materials as the relationships with their surrounding space. Dansaekhwa (monochrome painting in Korean) refers to a loose grouping of painting practice that emerged in Korea starting in the 1960s that also explored materiality. Artists pushed paint, soaked canvas, dragged pencils, and ripped paper, among other processes in their work, and this diverse array of methods employed to make paintings defines the movement as much as its minimal aesthetics.

The seven sculptures on view re-contextualize familiar objects and material, juxtaposing the industrial and the organic: stones are arranged between two large plates of steel in Lee Ufan's Relatum (formerly Relation), 1968/1991/2011; Koshimizu's Paper 2012-2, 1969/2012, reveals the contents of its traditional Japanese hempen paper box to approaching viewers; while cotton spills forth from the ends of a monumental steel tube in Yoshida's Cut-off, 1969/2007, among others. Meanwhile, the seven Dansaekhwa paintings on view also call attention to material and pushing and conflating its perceived boundaries; highlights include Ha Chong-hyun's Conjunction 16-102, 2016, a canvas of viscous paint pushed through the back of hemp and then smeared and scraped across the surface; Umber-Blue, 1978, by Yun Hyong-keun, where the artist washed paint diluted with turpentine over canvas, allowing it to bleed into the surface; and Untitled, 1980 by Kwon Young-woo, made of hanji paper the artist scratched, tore, punctured and sliced.

Following the seminal exhibitions Requiem for the Sun: The Art of Mono-ha, curated by Mika Yoshitake, Associate Curator at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., at Blum & Poe, Los Angeles in 2012, and From All Sides: Tansaekhwa on Abstraction, curated by Joan Kee, Associate Professor of History of Art at the University of Michigan, at Blum & Poe, Los Angeles in 2014, this exhibition is the first presentation of the two movements together in the United States. This will also be the first time many of these artists have been exhibited in San Francisco -­works by Koshimizu, Sekine, Suga, and Yoshida were last presented in the city at SFMOMA in the groundbreaking 1994 show Japanese Art After 1945: Scream Against the Sky, curated by Alexandra Munroe.

Blum & Poe has published two comprehensive catalogues on the movements, respectively, both eponymous with the exhibitions they accompanied: Requiem for the Sun: The Art of Mono-ha (2012) and From All Sides: Tansaekhwa on Abstraction (2014). These feature new scholarship by contemporary masters of their fields, Joan Kee and Mika Yoshitake, along with scarcely seen translated texts by the artists and rare archival photography.

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