Yun Hyong-keun (1928-2007) was born in Seoul and received his BFA from the School of Fine Arts at Hongik University in 1957. One of the most significant Korean artists of the twentieth century, Hyong-keun became associated with the influential Dansaekhwa (monochromatic painting) movement of Korean artists who experimented with the physical properties of painting and prioritized technique and process in the 1960s. The scarcity of materials following the Korean War (1950-1953) and the country’s relative isolation from the international art world led the artists to construct their own sets of rules and structures in relation to abstraction.
Using a restricted palette of ultramarine and umber, Yun created his distinctive compositions by adding layer upon layer of paint onto raw canvas or linen, often applying the next coat before the last one had dried. He then diluted the pigments with turpentine solvent, allowing them to seep into the fibers of the support, staining it in a similar way to traditional ink on absorbent paper. Working directly on his studio floor, he produced simple arrangements of intensely dark, vertical bands surrounded by untouched areas. The division was softened by the blurred edges caused by the uneven rates of absorption of oil and solvent, and the compositions often developed over several days, even months, with the artist adding further layers or letting the pigments bleed out gradually.
Since 2016, David Zwirner has represented the work of Yun Hyong-keun in New York. The artist’s work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at prominent institutions worldwide, including Total Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul (1994); Stiftung für konkrete Kunst, Reutlingen, Germany (1997); Musée d’Art moderne et contemporain de Strasbourg (2002); and Art Sonje Museum, Gyeongju, Korea (2002). He has participated in recent group exhibitions held at National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul (2015); Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art, Korea (2013); and Daegu Art Museum, Daegu, Korea (2011). His work was included in the São Paulo Biennial in 1969 and 1975; the 46th Venice Biennale in 1995; and the Gwangju Biennale in 2000. Other notable solo exhibitions have been held at Inkong Gallery, Daegu, Korea (1986); Gallery Ueda, Tokyo (1990); Gallery Hyundai, Seoul (1996); Blum & Poe, New York; PKM Gallery, Seoul (both 2015); among others. In 2018, the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul will host a major solo exhibition of the artist’s work.
Yun visited New York in 1974, where he encountered the work of American postwar artists including Mark Rothko, which led him to further explore ways to divide pictorial space. The inherent physicality of his works, in turn, impressed artists such as Donald Judd, who invited Yun to exhibit at his spaces on Spring Street in New York and in Marfa, Texas (Chinati Foundation) during the 1990s in what would be the artist’s first solo presentations in the United States.
Work by the artist is represented in permanent collections internationally, including the Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas; Fukuoka Art Museum, Fukuoka, Japan; Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul; and National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea. The artist has been the recipient of awards including the 5th Korean Fine Art Grand-Prix Exhibition (1978).