Only the Young: Experimental Art in Korea, 1960s–1970s examines the groundbreaking and genre-defying body of artistic production from an era of remarkable transformation in South Korea. Created by young artists who came of age in the decades immediately following the Korean War, the artworks reflect and respond to the changing socioeconomic and material conditions that were shaped by a tumultuous political landscape at home and a globalizing world beyond. This is the first North American museum exhibition dedicated to Korean Experimental art (silheom misul) and its artists, whose radical approach to materials and process resulted in some of the most significant avant-garde practices of the twentieth century.
Spanning three tower galleries and featuring approximately eighty works, this exhibition offers an unprecedented opportunity to experience the creativity and breadth of this generation of Korean artists. Bound not by a single aesthetic, but rather their search for the new, these young artists launched what would later be given the name “Experimental art” by art historian Gim Mi-gyeong in the early 2000s. Both as individuals and in collectives, Experimental artists broke definitively with their predecessors, redefining the boundaries of traditional painting and sculpture while embracing innovative—and often provocative—approaches to art making. Representing a variety of mediums, including performance, installation, photography and video, the works on view illustrate how Experimental artists engaged with pressing issues such as subjectivity in age of rapid modernization and globalization, and individual will at the fringes of an increasingly authoritarian state. What emerges is the story of how these young Korean artists harnessed the power of art to confront and reimagine an ever-shifting present.
Only the Young: Experimental Art in Korea, 1960s–1970s is co-organized by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, and the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea. The exhibition is cocurated by Kyung An, Associate Curator, Asian Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation, New York, and Kang Soojung, Senior Curator, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea. The exhibition opened at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, on May 26 and closed on July 16, 2023. It will travel to the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, from February 11 to May 12, 2024, following the Guggenheim presentation this fall.