Korean Cultural Center New York announces The Wonder Unbound, an exhibition examining modern Korea through visual materials from books published 1700-1960

On view March 15th – April 27th, 2023

Opening Reception: March 15th, 6 pm – 8 pm

Gallery Korea at the Korean Cultural Center New York

460 Park Avenue 6th Floor, New York, NY 10022 

NEW YORK, March 9, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — The Korean Cultural Center New York (KCCNY), a branch of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST) of the Republic of Korea is pleased to present The Wonder Unbound, an exhibition examining modern Korea through the images and texts from multidisciplinary books published in foreign countries in the late 1700s to 1960s as a part of Asia Week New York, on view from March 15th to April 27th, 2023. The opening reception will be held on March 15th from 6 pm to 8 pm ET.

For the past 20 years, Professor Seung-cheol Lee, Director of the Dongduk Women’s University and renowned Hanji (Korean traditional paper) artist himself, has amassed over 1,350 rare and vintage books from over two centuries. What had begun as means of research for the purpose of learning in depth about paper for his artworks, grew to become an extensive and relevant set of its own. The Wonder Unbound unveils a curated selection of 120 books from this collection, opening these treasures to public view for the first time.

The books are in large part written by non-Korean foreigners who had visited or worked in Korea between the years 1700 and 1960, ranging from missionaries, diplomats, soldiers, to historians, art historians, and explorers. These valuable texts bring to light varying perspectives and observations on Korean culture, economy, daily life, and notably, bring an added point of interest to the historical discourse as they are published in the author’s original language after they had returned from their travels.

The 120 books have been selected for their multi-dimensional reflection of life in Korea during the time of publication via aesthetics from its cover images, illustrations, maps, and photographs. It is also significant to note that the changing forms of visual materials are meaningful to observe from a historical viewpoint: from illustrations, to black and white photography, and ultimately to color photography.

“This exhibition is an exciting view into Korean life and history as depicted through the visual platform in the format of books and the art they contain.” says Hee-Sung Cho, curator of the Korean Cultural Center New York, in describing the direction and goals for the exhibition. “A lot has changed in the world since these books have been published, but they are invaluable in their artistic insights.”

“It’s our hope that this exhibition can act as a foundation for academics and researchers in Korean studies on a more macro level, providing different perspectives through not just textual, but visual materials” collector Seung-cheol Lee said.

The official opening reception will take place on Wednesday, March 15th, 2023 from 6 pm to 8 pm ET. A virtual exhibition will be available on view online from Monday, March 20th on the Korean Cultural Center New York website.

This exhibition is presented by the Korean Cultural Center New York to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the ROK-U.S. Alliance.

About the Collector

Seung-cheol Lee was born in 1964 in Wonju, Gangwon-do. In 1988, he graduated from the Department of Asian traditional painting at the College of Fine Arts, Seoul National University, and received a doctorate from the same graduate school in 1994. Since 1993, he has been a permanent researcher at the Kansong Art Museum, which houses national treasures such as the Hunminjeongeum Haeryebon and works by Chusa Kim Jeong-hui, and Gyeomjae Jeong Seon. Lee’s area of concentration is  research on Asian traditional painting and Korean paper. Since 2013, he has been a professor at the Department of Painting at Dongduk Women’s University, and also serves as the Director of Dongduk Women’s University’s Museum and Dongduk Art Gallery. In addition, he is a professor at Dongduk Women’s University’s Specialized Graduate School of Minhwa and is constantly working on art to put the diversity and originality of 21st century Korean culture at the center of the global art market.

Seung-cheol Lee is also an artist who has been reinterpreting Hanji, a traditional material, with modern aesthetics. While working as a curator at the Kansong Museum of Art, he felt that he needed to truly understand the most basic fundamentals of paper in order to draw properly, so he started researching Korean traditional paper, Hanji. In order to learn about types of paper that no longer exist, he collected materials such as artifacts and old books and devoted himself to research. His research was not only limited to paper, but expanded to traditional materials such as ink and dyeing, as he realized the importance of records in this process. Artist Seung-cheol Lee has been obsessing over these modern book materials for over 20 years as a source of research because he believes they are a way of communicating with the past, while also serving as a starting point for new creation. Old books do not remain as mere records but serve as a guide to find the past, and at the same time serve as bridges to the present and future.

Korean Cultural Center New York

Inaugurated in 1979, the Korean Cultural Center New York (KCCNY) is a branch of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST) of the Republic of Korea. KCCNY works to promote cultural arts exchange and stimulate interest in Korean culture through various opportunities including exhibitions, concerts, film festivals, educational programs, and more. www.koreanculture.org

For press inquiries, contact Mickey Hyun ([email protected])

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SOURCE Korean Cultural Center New York


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