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Copyright all right reserved 2008 Cho Duck Hyun

  Two Mysteries Colliding _ Chtistopher French 2008/08/31

Two  Mysteries Colliding : the Art of Duck-Hyun Cho

Stories never live along:
they are the branches of a family tree that we have  to trace back, and forward.

Robert Calasso,
The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony

Two Worldviews coincide in the shaped paintings of Duck-Hyun Cho.  Through the technical virtuosity of their nuanced detail, the central  representational portions of Cho's paintings meditate on the connection between  historical images and our present condition, in much the same way that we might  caress the worn contours of an old tool and imagine the labor that helped give  the implement its present shape. Flanking or framing these central panels are  monochromatic expanses which sharply contrast with Cho's historical imagery,  creating an abstract, iconic presence that suggests the schisms-between old and  new, tradition and innovation, place and placelessness-that dominated the  troubling, often traumatic events of this century.

Cho is preoccupied with developing a means of representing the  temporal discontinuity between past and present. In this series Site-Memory of  Twentieth Century he incorporated images of modern Korean history, specifically  that part of Korean history that serves as the locus for meditations on the  value of individual identity within the social tumult of war. Reinforcing the  sense of upheaval that is a dominant theme in this series, images of the  American military presence and the interactions between east and west during  the Korean war also provide a point of reference to the sudden exposure to  contemporary mores and technology that accompanied massive physical  destruction, and which altered Koreans society after war's end. In this way,  Cho's emphasis on a cold-war era military conflict (where Eastern and Western  superpowers used Korea as a "neutral" site for acting out their  ideological struggles) Points out how the succession of past into present  hinges on a continuity of events that, in this century, seems to have become  beyond the control of individuals and susceptible to societal manipulation. In  these works the visual authority of Cho's graphite renditions of reportorial  photographs of the implements, organizations, and activities of men at war are  questioned and even urtermined by the symbols of authority that detail the  hierarchies of military command. Military insignias such as chevrons, medals,  and winged patches float in monolithic charcoal or gunmetal grey frames or  flanking panels; surrounded by the sumptuous ambiguity of the subtle cruciform,  checkerboard, or perspectival patterns that become visible in these framing  devices upon close inspection, Cho's starkly temporal interior images seem  frozen in a disconcertingly spatial timelessness. Complicating this, the  monochrome panels are often every bit as abstractly beautiful as Cho's  photographic record of war is graphically Unsetting or horrific.

More recently, in the series A History of Korean Women, Cho has  developed another metaphoric equivalent for the dichotomies between new and old  orders. Inspired by the birth of his daughter, Cho's imagery embraces the  history of Korean Women throughout their country's prolonged periods of foreign  occupation during this century. Cho's acknowledgment of the importance of a  female perspective on history (as opposed to any traditional, exclusively male  reading of history), is reinforced by his choice of representational images as  the central focus of his painting. Whether portrayed singly or in groups, his  women deny the macho minimalist aesthetic of the framing devices that surround  them. Cho's history of a culture that has suffered on a grand, visibly  macrocosmic level is represented through these images of women, a component of  korean society that has traditionally been regarded as a secondary, microcosmic  fraction of their country's body politic.

Filling the square central panel of the massive relief painting A  history of Korean Wome, 1993, is a solemen, formal portrait of what appears to  be the students of an ecole or missionary school, where young Korean women,  traditionally dressed, pose with their European or American teachers. Stained  with graphite and charcoal, the oversized, cantilevered framing panels that  surround and enfold this drawing are patched with many small drawings, colored  swatches of fabric, and small metal fragments in a random, allover fashion,  Cho's subtle allusion to what will be the everpresent domestic chore of these  future housewives- a lifetime of stretching a budget by scrimping and patching  together what is old rather than buying something new-also creates the elegant  sense of an interior identity that, far from being recorded through a  mythologizing account of successive, vivid actions, is comprised of many small  mementos of daily experience and discrete fragments of memory that act as  elusive human votives of mouring or hope.

In a similar sense, in Frame History of Korea, 1992, Cho uses fabric  to crisscross a grid over his naturalistically frontal portrait of an elderly  woman. This organizing grid, which we have come to associate with a  cartographic function, like the perspective and scale referents necessary for  aerial photographic surveys or planetary exploration, both unsettles and  recognizes Cho's utterly traditional images. This dichotomy between such a  bluntly modern formal structure and over a woman whose age, attire, and  attitude conjure a bygone era is augmented by Cho's use of framing devices that  resolutely evoke the uniquely American Minimalism of contemporary sculptors  such as Robert morris and Carl Andre. But even the grid, a hallmark of modernist  orthodoxy, cannot subjugate the traditional value of Cho's central images;  instead, in this work modern and traditional approaches uneasily coexist. Like  the padlocked hasp that adorns one of Cho's earlier works, this totemic  painting-object is a self-contained, sealed mystery, a provocative conundrum  that nudges us to construct our own connection between past values and present  necessities. It is our own constellation-like mapping of the fragmentary nature  of cho's combinations of abstract and representational imagery, illusionistic  technique and sculpture object, that allows us to chart history's function as a  marker of identity. Like the artist's 1990 diptych still-life, which insets the  classical ideal of Chardinesque apples against lyrical topographical markings  that signify, in their abstraction, the reality of the Korean landscape, a  sense of maplike topography underpins much of Cho's work. Occasionally this  will burst to the surface in the form of colored lines set over the familiarity  of the central representational figures, or staked out in the monochrome  wilderness that surrounds them. Like the constellations in the night sky that  are their inspiration, these rudimentary outlines posit a geometric abstraction  of place capable of simultaneously possessing a practical function that is also  highly symbolic, and private mystery that is inherent to all humanity.

Like the German artist Gerhard Richter, Duck-Hyun Cho rejects the  evolved separation between abstraction and representation that has dominated  much thinking about art throughout this century. But unlike Richter's highly  nuanced skepticism, which is characterized by a temporal blurring of both  abstract and representational images, Cho's symbolic valuation carefully  distinguishes between zones of symbolic abstraction and signifying  representation, just as it distinguishes between a group identity, communal  actions, and the perceptions unique to individuality. While openly  acknowledging the scientific, perceptual nature of our current understanding of  reality, his lovingly rendered, monumentally scaled icons seek to illuminate  and unify the fragmentary, isolated nature of human history by reuniting the  shadowy measure of individual actions and societal lives so that each may  attain body and breath.

Christopher French
(Artist, Art Critic)


23   From History to Memory_ Jiyoon Lee  
22   Butterfly Dreams, Mirrors and Mountains / Notes for Duck Hyun Cho: re-collection _ Pontus Kyander  
21   나비 꿈, 거울과 산 / 조 덕현을 위한 기록 : 리-컬렉션 _ 폰투스 키안더  
20   조덕현의 전시: 리콜렉션 re-colllection _ 신지영  
19   역사에서 기억까지 _ 이지윤  
18   The Scattered Puzzle Pieces _ Dae-Beom Lee  
17   흩어진 퍼즐 조각 _ 이대범  
16   Re-collection : Walking down two women's paths _ Jiyoung Shin  
15   Cho Duck–Hyun _ Ann Landi  
14   조덕현 _ Ann Landi  
13   Ontmoeting: (Trans) fusion of Landscape Portraiture and History Painting by Use of a Symbolical Device in Cho Duck Hyun's Digital Photo-Images _ Inhee Iris Moon  
12   A moral proposal _ Patrick T. Murphy  
  Two Mysteries Colliding _ Chtistopher French  
10   Leaning forward, Looking back – Jeff Kelly  
9   Restoration of Civilization _ Yongwoo Lee  
8   Reversing the Historical Imagination _ Young June Lee  
7   Entering Yiseoguk _ Choi Won Oh  
6   Cho Duck-Hyun – biographer of illusions _ Jan Donia  
5   From an Alien Past _ Hyunok Jung  
4   이중성의 전략과 경계의 미학 위에서 _ 김홍희  
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