Choi Wook-kyung 1940–1985

Borrowing a palette derived from the vibrant colors of Korean folk art and forms based on those found in nature, Wook-Kyung Choi developed a candid and lyrical visual language that would have a profound impact on contemporary art in Asia and the United States. Japanese occupation rapidly followed by war between the Communist north and the American-occupied south deeply affected the Korean national consciousness in the twentieth century, driving an unprecedented number of artists, writers and intellectuals to travel and gain knowledge abroad.

After studying under the well-known contemporary artists Kim Ki-Chang (1914-2001) and Park Re-Hyun (1920-1976), Choi graduated from the College of Fine Arts at Seoul National University. Each child in Choi's family received some of his or her education in the United States, and in 1963, she enrolled the Cranbrook Academy of Art. A versatile artist, Choi’s work spans a range of media from carved seals and metal sculpture to paintings on canvas, wood, and paper to sketches in charcoal and graphite.

The United States afforded Choi the freedom to explore her identity, one that often defied societal expectations placed on women in Korea at that time. It also propelled her development as an artist to new heights. In the 1960s, Choi moved away from creating figurative works and began to experiment with such elements of abstract expressionism as bold and vibrant colors and dynamic brushwork. Some of the work she produced at this time also confronts social issues, particularly war, segregation, and the rights of women. In the 1970s, Choi taught at the University of Wisconsin and at the Atlanta College of Art. In Atlanta, she became increasingly interested in form and produced a significant body of monochromatic paintings. She also looked to nature for inspiration, incorporating translucent washes of color and shapes derived from birds, flowers, and fish. In 1976, she was accepted into the prestigious Roswell Artist in Residence Program at the Roswell Museum of Art. The works that she created in New Mexico incorporated colors and lines inspired by the natural landscape. While working in Roswell, Choi obtained American citizenship.

In 1979, Choi returned to Korea and began teaching at Yeongnam University. She continued to be inspired by natural beauty, particularly from her travels to Kyeongsang province. Her palette softened and her forms became more organic and rhythmic. In 1981, she began teaching and working at the Duksung Women’s University where she remained until her untimely death in 1985. While there, Choi strived to help many young Korean women find a means of expressing themselves freely and confidently. Driven to create, Choi saw art as a means of communication, a way of articulating feeling and truth across culture, gender, and politics. Wook-Young Choi left an indelible mark on a generation of artists on an international scale and her legacy will endure.

Choi’s work has been exhibited internationally at such venues as the Paris and Sao Paulo Biennales, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, and the Cornell University Art Museum. Examples of her art can also be found in the permanent collections of The National Museum of Contemporary Art in Seoul, The University of Missouri, The Colby Museum, the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art, and the Ho-Am Art Museum.

Auction Results Choi Wook-kyung