Silence can speak volumes. The eloquence of the unspoken may help explain the recent resurgence of interest in the artists of dansaekhwa (Korean for “monochrome painting”), a loosely affiliated group of painters working since the late 1960s, whose meditative, “empty” canvases elevate the organic pull of materials over the individual artistic statement. This type of work rose to prominence at a time when Korea was under pressure to formulate a new postwar cultural identity, bolstered by a narrative that was not reliant on either the Japanese occupation or encroaching interference from the West in order to “explain” Korea’s modernism. In the late ’50s, the country’s artists had flirted with European art informel, but countering imperialist influences from abroad required something more politically expedient than a Koreanized franchise of so-called Western art. Whether they agreed
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