On Yoo Youngkuk in Venice

A Journey to the Infinite

The Yoo Youngkuk Art Foundation presents an exhibition of works by renowned Korean painter, Yoo Youngkuk, curated by Kim Inhye at the Biennale Arte 2024, marking the artist’s first solo show in Europe.

Venice—The Yoo Youngkuk Art Foundation presents thirty of the artist’s large-scale oil paintings and twenty copper prints, alongside an array of photographs in the historic Fondazione Querini Stampalia, documenting the evolution of one of Korea’s most important artists. A Journey to the Infinite: Yoo Youngkuk has been selected as a Collateral Event by the curator of the 60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, Adriano Pedrosa. On view 20 April to 24 November 2024, A Journey to the Infinite: Yoo Youngkuk, is curated by Kim Inhye and will be the most significant exhibition to date of Yoo Youngkuk’s work outside of Korea.

Yoo Youngkuk was a pioneer of geometric abstract painting who left an indelible mark on the history of art in Korea. The selection of paintings in the exhibition, including works never before seen outside of Korea, embody Yoo’s passionate engagement with the distillation of painterly forms as a means of investigating his deeply personal relationship to nature. Seeking to portray the essence of natural elements through abstraction, Yoo rendered three-dimensional land and sea formations as points, lines, planes, and vibrant colours. There are also documents and ephemera from the Yoo Youngkuk archives, including postcards, photographs, notes, and videos which provide insight into the life and practice of the artist on view in the Fondazione Querini Stampalia’s historic library.

1. Yoo Youngkuk, Work, 1965, oil on canvas, 130 cm x 162 cm_

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

It is impossible to imagine painting without colours

Yoo Youngkuk

A Journey to the Infinite: Yoo Youngkuk primarily features works from the 1960s and 1970s: a pivotal moment in Yoo’s life at which he fully dedicated himself to painting. Working alone in his studio with minimal social interactions, he produced numerous outstanding works. Yoo Youngkuk once stated, ‘I believe I was still in the learning phase until I turned sixty. After that, I just want to become freer.’ The exhibition illuminates the stages of this ‘learning phase’: his study of organic and geometric forms, and explorations into colour theory and perspectival placement.

In his art, Yoo Youngkuk integrated traditional Korean aesthetics with modern Western art movements, such as Surrealism and Constructivism, ultimately pioneering avant-garde movements himself, including New Realism, Modern Art Association, Contemporary Artists Exhibition, and New Figures. His art reflects the theme of the 60th International Art Exhibition, ‘Stranieri Ovunque - Foreigners Everywhere,’ curated by Adriano Pedrosa, exploring how Western art was adopted and adapted by countries that experienced colonialism in the twentieth century. In this context, the art of Yoo Youngkuk, who integrated Eastern and Western ideas while navigating the trials of colonisation, independence, and war in modern Korea, presents a very intriguing and insightful subject for discussion.

Yoo drew from personal experience to develop his own notion of the ‘order of nature,’ which was rooted in the Korean perspective of the natural world. He was particularly inspired by the landscapes of his hometown of Uljin, with its towering mountains and deep sea. Yoo Youngkuk viewed nature not as a potential conquest, but as a mysterious and ineffable source of sublimity. This attitude is especially evident in his works from the 1960s and 1970s, which showcase his unparalleled ability to capture the ever-changing beauty of the quintessential ‘mountain’ through various pictorial languages.

The exhibition will be displayed across the first, second and third floor of the Fondazione Querini Stampalia and will include paintings from museums.

Curator Kim Inhye said:
‘This truly is a landmark exhibition which brings the work of a pivotal figure in Korean abstract artist to the fore. For the vast majority of viewers this will be their first time experiencing Yoo’s richly hued paintings with their nuanced play of colour and form. Despite Yoo’s prominence in Korean art history, his practice is lesser known to international audiences and this exhibition is a hugely exciting opportunity to bring a master painter to international recognition’

The Yoo Youngkuk Art Foundation said:
‘Yoo Youngkuk is a canonical artist in Korea’s modern art history and we are delighted to bring his work to a wider audience at the 2024 Venice Biennale. The Foundation aims to commemorate the artistic achievements of Yoo Youngkuk as well as the contribution he has made to Korean modern and contemporary art, and to succeed on his legacy. The inclusion of Yoo Youngkuk’s exhibition in the Collateral Events is a clear indication of Yoo’s growing appeal in an international context’

  • Museum Exhibitions — On Yoo Youngkuk in Venice: A Journey to the Infinite, Jan 1, 2024