Situating Contemporary Korean Art in the Age of Globalization
University of Kansas
History of Art
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This dissertation examines the development of contemporary Korean art from the late 1980s through the first decade of the 21st century under the influence of globalization through case studies of selected internationally known Korean artists, Yiso Bahc (1957-2004), Do-ho Suh (b.1962), and Gimhongsok (b.1964) who are engaged with globalization through their personal experiences, works of art, and critical responses surrounding their works and activities. Bahc, Suh, and Gim exemplify a new generation of Korean artists who were born in the 1950s and 1960s and studied abroad in the 1980s and 1990s. Based on their transnational experience, these artists emerged in the Korean and global art scene from the 1980s to the early 2000s responding to different temporal, ideological, and discursive backgrounds. This dissertation not only analyzes these three artists’ work in relation to the impact of globalization in the Korean and global art scene, but also discusses the transformation of social, cultural, theoretical, and discursive settings of their works and activities through the investigation of curatorial projects and art criticism surrounding them. The first chapter broadly maps out social, cultural, institutional, and critical spaces from the late 1980s by tracing the changes in Korean society, art institutions, tendencies of curatorial projects and artists’ activities and situating these three artists in these sociocultural, institutional, and discursive spaces. The next three chapters analyze each artist individually, but focus on drawing common issues from these three artists’ works. First, these chapters address these three artists’ examination of the formation, conflict, and transformation of identities through the encounter with different physical, cultural, linguistic, and social spaces. Second, these chapters consider the possibilities and limitations of connection, communication, and translation across different communities, cultures, and societies, as seen in the three artists’ works. Third, these chapters discuss the change of social structure and the notion of the public under globalization advanced in the three artists’ works. In other words, the research of these artists focusing on common issues enables the tracing of the construction of cultural identity of contemporary Korean art encountering outside worlds. Complementing the current scholarship, this dissertation, at the basic level, not only provides in-depth art historical analysis of Bahc, Suh, and Gim beyond the current essays mainly published in exhibition catalogues, but also comprehensively weaves the analysis of artists, art institutions, curatorial projects, and art criticism together beyond fragmented discussions. By exploring the social, cultural, and critical spaces with which these artists personally engage, in which their works are produced, and in which their works are received and critical responses are created, this dissertation attempts to locate Bahc, Suh, and Gim in contemporary Korean art history and situate Korean art in the globalization age.
- Art History Dissertations and Theses 
- Dissertations 
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