[Episode 7 of 8]
Awakenings: Art in Society in Asia 1960s-1990s
Live Gallery Tour with Curator Myung-ji Bae
Korean Cultural Center New York (KCCNY) is pleased to present the seventh episode of
<Special Online Exhibition : Live Gallery Tour With The Curator>,
from the National Museum of Modern Art (MMCA).
This exhibition illuminates the social, political, and cultural changes that occurred throughout Asia during the three decades from the 1960s to the 1990s and the subsequent changes in Asian contemporary art. Co-organised by the MMCA, the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, the National Gallery Singapore, and the Japan Foundation Asia Center through four years of extensive joint research, this large-scale international exhibition showcases approximately 170 works by 100 major artists from 13 Asian countries: Korea, Japan, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, India, Myanmar, and Cambodia.
▲ Featured Artists: 100 artists including F.X Harsono, Kim Kulim, Renato Habulan / 170 works
▲ Exhibition Overview
From the 1960s to the 1990s, Asian societies experienced radical transformations brought on by decolonisation, ideological conflicts rooted in the Cold War, the outbreak of the Vietnam War, the rise of nationalism, rapid modernisation, and democratic movements. Through these turbulent times, artists were motivated to resist authority and customs and seek liberation from oppression, leading radical experimental art that challenged existing artistic concepts, categories, and institutions. Moreover, a new awareness of subjectivity and broad criticism of Western modernism led to the emergence of various aesthetic experiments and movements that sought to escape “art for art’s sake” and understand art in relation to society. Radical and experimental artistic practices thrived in different time periods for each Asian country: the 1960-70s for Korea, Japan, and Taiwan; the 1970-80s for Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and India; and the 1980-90s for China.
In this exhibition, “awakening” refers not to awareness through external (Western) intervention, but to the rise of political awareness, new artistic attitudes, and a newfound sense of subjectivity that originated from a local and internal context.
Awakenings comprises three themes: “Questioning Structures,” “Artists and City” and “New Solidarities.”
The first section, “Questioning Structures,” deals with the period from the mid-20th century onward, in which sudden social, political, and cultural changes led to blurring of artistic boundaries and ultimately, redefinition of art. This section presents works that deviate from the traditional media of painting and sculpture, incorporating body parts and everyday materials instead to portray various aspects of life. Major works include Topi Made in France by Indonesian artist S. Priyanto, Burning Canvases Floating on the River by Korean artist Lee Seungtaek, Disapperance—Bar in the Gallery by Lee Kangso, Compact Object by Japanese artist Nakanishi Natsuyuki, Gully Curtains by Singaporean artist Tang Da Wu, Panchiao by Taiwanese artist Chang Chao-Tang, and Eating Hardtack by Korean artist Lee Kunyong.
The second section, “Artists and City,” observes how the new urban environment created by the post-1960s modernisation and industrialisation has affected artistic works and practices. For artists, the city both provided a rich visual source and served as an artistic stage. On the other hand, the social paradoxes attributed to urbanisation were subjects for criticism. This section explores the various artistic attitudes and methodologies deployed by artists as a way to interpret the city or urbanisation in general, highlighting avant-garde performances that aimed to achieve “integration of art and life,” or “communication between art and life” by breaking out of the white cube gallery space and into the city streets, subways, and parks. Featured works include Korean artist Oh Yoon’s Marketing I: Hell, Japanese artist Akasegawa Genpei’s Greater Japan Zero Yen Note, Chinese artist Wang Jin’s Ice 96 Central China, Korean artist Kim Kulim’s The Meaning of 1/24 Second, Indonesian artist Dede Eri Supria’s Labyrinth, Indian artist Nalini Malani’s Utopia, Taiwanese artist Chen Chieh-jen’s Dysfunction No.3, Thai artist Vasan Sittiket’s Manning Myself Around, and Chinese artist Zhang Peili’s Water: Standard Version from Ciahi Dictionary.
The third section, “New Solidarities,” focuses on the social role of art. Beginning in the 1960s, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Taiwan, and Indonesia have commonly suffered democratisation movements against military governments. This section introduces a wide selection of works by artists who banded together in solidarity to practice artistic activism, challenging oppressive powers, social taboos, and existing ideologies. Based on interdisciplinary cooperation, the experimental artist groups of this period pursued cross genre art that combined performances, theatre, and sound. Groups such as Korea’s Fourth Group, Japan’s The Play and Matsuzawa Yutaka, and China’s Beijing East Village followed new art strategies that integrated activism, experimentation, plays, and art, and these Asian collectives constitute the key narrative of this exhibition. Featured works include The Base by Japanese artist Nakamura Hiroshi, Manifesto by Filipino artist Pablo Baens Santos, To Add One Meter to an Anonymous Mountain by Chinese artist Zhang Huan, On-e by Japanese artist Matsuzawa Yutaka, and I Have a Dream by Malaysian artist Wong Hoy Cheong.
When seen from a transnational perspective, Asian art and its realisation of social communication amid radical shifts marked by democratisation, decolonisation, and anti- modernism create unexpected resonance transcending of time and space. This exhibition not only dynamically maps out the diversity in Asian contemporary art, but also retells the Western-centric narrative of art history to open up new discourses on Asian art.
©The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art(MMCA). All rights reserved.