Kukjin Kang(1938-1992) was a pioneer who crafted ambitious works in various segments of the art world, including ‘Noncol’(1965), the first coterie magazine of Korea with associates of the group ‘Noncol’ and the groundbreaking demonstration of a performance Vinyl Tube spouting out watercolor (11 December 1967) at ‘Chungnyun jakka yeunlipjun’ (Exhibition of young artist’s union). Plus, as a member of ‘Shin Jun’ coterie participating in ‘Chungnyun jakka yeunlipjun’, he led the very first artists’ street demonstration and orchestrated again the first happening work Happening with vinyl umbrella and candle light (14 December 1967) and Murder at Han riverside (17 October 1968). The artistic context in which Kang resided upon is now gaining ever more international attention as Korean experimental art is being more thoroughly studied and investigated so as to understand historical circumstances of socio-political aspect of the art world.
Hence opening ‘Chungnyun jakka yeunlipjun’ in this sense deserves a special credit because it shifted the heavily loaded conservative paradigm of sculpture and painting to a more unknown and experimental dimensions, which is what makes it a important talking point of art alongside with Italy’s Arte Povera, Post Minimalism or Japanese Mono-ha perspective.
One must go further in mentioning his activities as a primary diffuser of printmaking works, for which he in 1971 opened the country’s first print workshop. He continued all these endeavors well into the 90s until 1992, along with his work on the philosophy of linearity and rhythm to dig into the history of Korean art. His late years, a few years before his death, enabled him to focus on Light of History, a painting that recovers specific individuality through the use of images such as the ancient horse-rider figurine and other clay figures, Buddha and The Bangasayusang. This use of traditional Korean image allows us to trace the foundation of our art, accompanied by mountain, trees and flora and fauna imageries. Light of History, along with many others by Kang, was an important work to the existence of Korean Modern art, this masterpiece of an overwhelming size of 300호 is now hung on the wall of the main hall of Korean parliament. He died of cardiac infarction in 1992. (Mikyung Kim / Professor of Art History at Kangnam University / Director of Korean Modern & Contemporary Art Research Institute)