Yoo Youngkuk, Work, 1974 oil on canvas, 106 cm × 106 cm

Yoo Youngkuk, Work, 1974, oil on canvas, 106 cm × 106 cm © Yoo Youngkuk Art Foundation

Yoo Youngkuk

Yoo Youngkuk Portrait


b. 1916; Uljin-gun, South Korea

d. 2002; Seoul, South Korea

Throughout his nearly seven-decade career, Yoo Youngkuk founded several vital artistic groups in Japan and Korea that blazed a trail for generations of avant-garde artists.

A pioneer of geometric abstract painting, his distinctive visual lexicon is characterized by bold color fields and an expressive application of paint. At the core of Yoo’s practice is a steadfast and passionate engagement with the distillation of painterly forms as a means of investigating his deeply personal relationship to nature.

As a young man, becoming a painter represented a kind of freedom for Yoo. It opened the door to communities of like-minded artists and offered an outlet for his rich inner world. Experimenting with an array of materials and techniques, including wood relief, photography, and painting, early influences of Russian Constructivism, Suprematism, and Neo-Plasticism are keenly felt in Yoo’s work. Regardless of the material, the artist’s use of color, form, and space expertly captured the brilliance and majesty of nature while maintaining a distinctly abstract sensibility.

Yoo’s life was punctuated by multiple historic upheavals, including World War II and the Korean War. These periods of crisis enforced relocation and prolonged breaks from painting, but only strengthened Yoo’s commitment to his artistic practice. His unwavering dedication garnered significant critical engagement and several major institutional exhibitions across Korea. Against the fragility of daily life caused by the turmoil of global conflict, mountains became a signature motif in the artist’s paintings, serving as symbols of stability and endurance.

Art historian and curator Dr. Gabriel Ritter explained, ‘For Yoo, the rocky summit of Mount Seoraksan and the tree-covered Taebaek mountain range were to become the embodiment of nature and Korea itself, and a constant.

5. work 1967 oil on canvas 130x130cm

Yoo Youngkuk, Work, 1967, Oil on canvas, 130 x 130 cm © Yoo Youngkuk Art Foundation

3. work 1965 oil on canvas 130x162cm

Yoo Youngkuk, Work, 1965, Oil on canvas, 130 x 162 cm © Yoo Youngkuk Art Foundation