Biography

Yongjin Han was born in Seoul, South Korea in 1934. After the Korean War—in which he fought, lying about his age in order to enlist—he was one of six students admitted to the sculpture program at the Seoul National University. At the time of his enrollment little of his native city remained intact; nonetheless, he had never felt more responsible to his work, firm in the conviction that artistic expression is every bit as essential to life and human nature as eating, drinking, or breathing.

One of Han’s teachers was Kim Chong Yung, a pioneer of Korean abstract sculpture, and by the time of his graduation he had adopted the abstraction that had seized both Europe and the United States several years before. . In 1967 he relocated to the USA, where he studied at Dartmouth and Columbia.  Over the course of his long career the artist returned to Korea with frequency and made extended stays in Japan and Europe.

Trips to Korea signified something more than mere homesickness: Han’s work, though made largely in America, remained grounded in his rich cultural heritage. Korea rests on a bedrock of granite, and freestanding sculpture produced of the stone has for centuries demarcated sites of historical and religious significance. Han’s sculpture bridges this past with modernity. Richard A. Born, former Curator at the Smart Museum at the University of Chicago, has said that Han “brought Korea’s tradition of direct stone carving out of figuration into a refined, non-objective abstraction.”

For his part, Han puts very little stock in designations; his focus, instead, is on the stone itself. His pieces explore a certain harmonization with nature. Han, when describing his work, says, "As stone has been around since the beginning of time, it has much to teach us if we care to slow down and listen." He believes that each stone has its own history, character, and energy and that his task is to draw out these inherently spiritual qualities. He describes his process as a “dialogue” with his material: "The stone tells me it has an itch in a certain spot, so I scratch it—and we both feel better!"

Han works alone and with manual tools, and the process is arduous. Carving stone this way takes time, and, what’s more, requires great force—yet Han’s sculptures, even the monumental ones, are, as friend and fellow artist David Parker says, “all gentle grace and warmth” … [the sculptor] “engages with the stone as an equal—like wayfarers meeting on a path, Han and a stone spend time together and when they part, both are marked and changed forever.”

Yongjin Han's career has spanned decades and continents, and has included several prestigious large-scale public commissions. In Seoul his work can be found at the National Museum of Contemporary Art, the IE Young Museum of Contemporary Art, the Whanki Museum, the Ewha Woman’s University Museum, Posong High School, and the 88 Olympics Seonsu Village. His sculptures are held in a variety of public and private collections throughout the world, notably by the Herning Kunst Museum in Denmark; the Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago; and the Sculpture Park at City Hall, Redding, CA.

SOLO EXHIBITIONS

2016 Maison Gerard, New York
2012 Gallery Nori, Jeju, Korea
2007 2x13 Gallery, Seoul
1994 Hyundai Gallery, Seoul
1991 Blue Hill Art and Cultural Center, Pearl River, New York
1986 Thorpe Intermedia Gallery, Sparkill, New York
1984 Won Gallery, Seoul
1981 Bergen Community Museum, New Jersey USA
1966 Gallery of New Experimental College, Herning, Denmark

SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS

2014 “Carved, Cast, Crumpled: Sculpture All Ways,” Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, Chicago
2012 “From the Land of the Morning Calm: Traditions of Korean Art,” Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, Chicago
2011 “Stone and Wind”, 2-person show with Jungjin Lee, Andrew Bae Gallery, Chicago
2009 “30th Anniversary Exhibition,” Gallery Korea, Korean Cultural Service, New York
2008 “In Memoriam: Moon Mi Ae,” Whanki Museum, Seoul
2007 “Erase the Old No. 2,” 3-person show, Yenar Gallery, Seoul
          Asian Contemporary Art Fair (with 2x13 Gallery), New York
2006 “Honest Echo,” 2x13 Gallery, New York
          4-person sculpture exhibition, Gallery Korea, Korean Cultural Service, New York
          3-person permanent installation, IE Young Contemporary Art Museum, Yongin, Korea
2003 "Dreams & Reality: Celebrating 100 Years of Korean Immigration to USA," Smithsonian International Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC
2001 “Erase the Old,” 3-person show, Yenar Gallery, Seoul Art Chicago (with Park Ryu Sook Gallery, Seoul), Chicago
2000 “Origins of Korean Contemporary Art,” National Museum of Contemporary Art, Korea
          Group exhibition, Republic of Korea Mission to the United Nations, New York
1999 3-person show, Hyundai Gallery, Seoul
1997 “Fall/Winter Exhibition,” Grounds for Sculpture, Trenton, NJ USA
1995 2-person show with Nam June Paik, Sigma Gallery, New York
         Korean Art Exhibition, UNESCO World Headquarters, Paris
1992 Korean American Exhibition, Korean Cultural Service, New York
1991 3-person exhibition, Blue Hill Cultural Center, Pearl River, NY, USA
1989 "Clock & Rock", 2-person show with Nam June Paik, La Galerie de Paris, Paris, France
         Seoul Sculpture Society exhibition, Seoul
1987 Whanki Foundation Exhibition, Centre National des Arts Plastiques, Paris, France
         Survey Exhibition, Hyundai Gallery, Seoul
         Silla Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition, Seoul
1986 Group exhibition, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul
         "Korea-New York' 86", Thorpe Intermedia Gallery, Sparkill, NY, USA
1985 Group exhibition, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul
         5-person exhibition, Gallery Du Son, Seoul
1983 "FIAC 83", 2-person exhibition with Kim Whanki, Pointdexter Gallery, Paris, France
1982 10th International Stone Sculpture Invitational Symposium, Iwateken, Japan
         Warner Communications Gallery, New York
         New York 32nd Street Gallery, New York
1981 Bergen County Museum, Paramus, NJ, USA
        Stone Sculpture Society of New York, Standard Oil Gallery, New York
1980 Stone Sculpture Society of New York, Searles Castle, Great Barrington, MA, USA
1979 "Art Expo' 79", with Whanki Foundation, New York
1963 7th Sao Paolo Biennial, Brazil
         "Five Artists Print Show", National Museum of Korea, Seoul
1961 National Art Exhibition, Seoul (Special Recognition)
1954 Student Art Conference, Hongik University, Seoul (top prize)
1949 First National Art Exhibition, Seoul

COMMISSIONS

2008 Kim Chong-hak outdoor sculpture park (private), Korea
2006 Sculpture Park at City Hall, Redding CA USA – commissioned by Dr. Jae-hyun Moon
2000 IE-YOUNG Contemporary Art Museum, Yongin, Korea (9 outdoor works)
1990 “Commemoration Stone of Poet Yi Sang,” Boseong High School, Seoul
1988 88 Olympics Seonsu Village Apartments, Seoul
1987 “Black Stone in the Night,” National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul
1986 Mural for subway station, Pusan, Korea
1982 Portrait sculpture of Commodore Robert Wilson Shufeldt, to commemorate the centennial anniversary of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Korea, Incheon, Korea
1975 Grave marker, artist Kim Whanki, New York
1966 Outdoor sculptures, Herning Kunsmuseum, Herning, Denmark
1964 Outdoor sculpture, Woosuk Hospital, Seoul

AWARDS

1995 9th Kim Saejung Sculpture Prize, Kim Saejung Cultural Foundation, Seoul
1965 Invitee, contemporary art workshop, Herning, Denmark (sponsored by Aage Damgarrd). 53 works entered collection of Herning Kunst Museum following its 1981 establishment.
1963 Institute of International Education – invitation to USA

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