A View of the Korean Mountains
Wook-Kyung Choi's late landscape
This painting was completed in 1981 only four years prior to the artist’s tragic death. During this time, Wook-Kyung was living full time in Korea after a long period (since the early 1960s) spent either living in the United States or traveling between the US and Korea. Although she was only in her early forties at this time, she had developed a highly distinctive and instantly recognizable style of abstract expressionism, which was all her own. One frequent theme during this period of her work was abstract representations of mountains and islands, characteristic of the Korean landscape. According to a catalog from the recent retrospective exhibit "Wook-Kyung Choi, Alice's Cat" held at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Korea (Jeon Yushin, Curator), her paintings during this period were particularly inspired by the mountains in and around Gyeongsang-do province in the southern part of South Korea. This is especially poignant given her deep family roots here—this region is the ancestral home of the Choi clan, in a recorded line of descent that stretches back to the 9th century.
What I try to accomplish in my paintings is not something explanatory or narrative, nor is it symbolic in meaning. It is about expressing sensibility itself into visual terms. It is like the complete abstract quality of music, which would give me the freedom to fly like a bird.
Borrowing a palette derived from the vibrant colors of Korean folk art and forms based on those found in nature, Choi Wook-Kyung 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.
Auction Results Choi Wook-Kyung