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Beyond Hangeul: Contemporary Art Inspired by the Korean Alphabet

The Korean Cultural Center proudly presents Beyond Hangeul, an exhibition of contemporary works by six Korean artist inspired by the elegant, adaptable design of Korea’s native writing system, hangeul. Not only to be appreciated by Korean speakers, this exhibition looks beyond hangeul as a functional communication tool—it explores the past, present, and future of hangeul through its structural value as well as its aesthetic and formal beauty. Featuring works of installation, painting, calligraphy, and sculpture, this exhibition comes just in time for Hangeul Day, the Oct. 9 national holiday in Korea celebrating hangeul’s creation in the 15th century. It has since stood the test of time as one of the world’s most scientific, easily learned alphabets, profoundly impacting literacy and education when it was introduced. 

Featured artists Ji Won Baek, Hee Sook Kim, Jounghwoe Kim, Daechul Lee, Jiyoun Lee-Lodge, and San Lee each have different creative backgrounds and origins within Korea, yet all draw upon their cultural heritage, especially hangeul, to give form to their artistry. This exhibition demonstrates how hangeul can be integrated into contemporary art as a design element or stand alone as an expressive medium itself. Either way, each work is imbued with the rich history and philosophical underpinning of this remarkable writing system. 

This exhibition is presented in collaboration with Art MORA, an arts organization based in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York that helps emerging artists nurture, develop, and expand the scope of their work. 

A free public opening reception and in-person introduction by several artists will be held on on Friday, September 30 beginning at 6:00 p.m. (RSVP below). The exhibition will remain on view through October 31 (no RSVP required during regular hours).

Beyond Hangeul: Contemporary Art Inspired by the Korean Alphabet 
WHAT: Group exhibition, artist talks, & public opening reception 
WHOJi Won Baek, Hee Sook Kim, Jounghwoe Kim, Daechul Lee, Jiyoun Lee-Lodge, and San Lee
WHEN: Opening Reception: Friday, Sept. 30 @ 6:00 p.m.
On View: Sept. 30 – Oct. 31 (M-F, 9 am-noon & 1:30-5:30 pm)
WHERE: Korean Cultural Center Washington, D.C. (2370 Massachusetts Ave. NW) 
HOW
Click here to go to the RSVP form for this event!

Artist Works and Brief Profiles


Hee Sook Kim, Medicine Series


Hee Sook Kim / Painter and Printing Artist
In my most recent work, I've taken the subject, both in form and imagery, of Korean historical landscape painting (so-called “longevity paintings” or Ship-jang-saeng-do), which were typically made only by men for the traditional upper class, or Yangban. Printing patterns (using Western oil colors) on top of the landscape traditionally used in Asian paintings (using water-based colors) transforms the masculine initial layer, now seen through a feminine veil. The painting's surface, covered with glass bead work using shimmering rhinestones, speaks out against the dominance of men in Korean cultural history, which is still prevalent in contemporary society. My work is an exercise in construct/destruct/re-construct.


Daechul Lee, 싹둑


Daechul Lee / Sculptor
Daechul Lee is concerned with exploring the boundaries between reality and illusion, consciousness and unconsciousness, visual and non-visual. As every second, every moment is recorded, he is convinced that he can illustrate the boundary being explored. In other words, the artist believes that languages create shapes and visuals of that which cannot be defined. However, since one’s memories and experiences change as time goes on, it makes the language form somewhat incomplete. Therefore, he attempts to illustrate the meanings made by non-visual languages, to explain his beliefs that they could be described visually but at the same time only incompletely, by the process of cutting, blending, and combining.


Ji Won Baek, Old Tale

Ji Won Baek / Craft Artist  
Beautiful flowers and leaves seen through white Hanji…
When spring comes, the door frame wears new clothes and creates new stories.
The world that I peeked into through the door frame told and showed many tales.
The news nobody wants to hear or see, travels through the wind and shivers hearts.
At night, when tears trickle, I miss the deep, profound scent of people.
With a wind of fragrance filling the air together with the rain, tonight, I want to burn the scent of people without embarrassment.  
Realizing the value of every small item… 

I hope that my work can represent time spent being together with the beauty of the world, as well as the moments we share feelings of love.

Jiyoun Lee-Lodge, Fluid Language


Jiyoun Lee-Lodge / Installation and Paper Artist
For me, language is constantly in flux. I believe language is not just words, but a representation of a country’s culture and history. I am influenced by both Korean and English, as well as other languages I have encountered while living in America. Each language evolves in me in new ways as I struggle to keep both while continuing to incorporate others. Some are broken, some are merging and some are evolving into something new.  


San Lee, Longing


San Lee / Calligrapher
Calligraphy in Korea can be described as handwriting that has broken free from the traditional, standardized writing methods, creating new formalities with practicality. Calligraphy has been used in various industries and it is still on a road of development. The industry realizes that hangeul (the Korean alphabet) should now do more than just convey information, as hangeul’s plasticity towards patterns and designs is needed more than ever. The art of San Lee connects the strokes of hangeul to create irregular shapes which become the visual key-points of the piece. The artist also uses obangsek (a traditional five-color palette that represent cardinal points: North-Black, South-Red, East-Blue, West-White, Center-Yellow) within the empty spaces in an attempt to create a new form of hangeul-pattern calligraphy.


Jounghwoe Kim, Beauty


Jounghwoe Kim / Architect  
I regularly read short figures of speech or aphorisms that bring meaning and sudden enlightenment to my life and my work. I can sometimes find fresh meanings when I read them again after time has passed. This process also widens and deepens my views of the world, which brings me such relaxation and joy.