Kim Whanki (1913-1974) is one of the most influential first generation Korean contemporary artists. In the late 1930s, he was a pioneer in the radical field of abstract art and was a critical figure leading Korean modernism. His works are noted for their refined formative and poetic language expressing a subtle but rich allusion to Korean culture, sentiment and motifs yet melded with more modernist art practices. Earlier works depicted traditional Joseon ceramics, Korean symbols, the moon, mountains, semi-nude women, and other natural motifs as the core subjects in geometrical shapes, simplified form and color. During his later years spent in New York from the early 1960s until his death, Kim’s work possessed a stricter formativeness through pure and basic geometric elements such as dots, lines and planes that deepened his delicate and introspective sentiments without depicting recognizable images.
Born in Sinan-gun, Jeollanam-do, Korea, Kim Whanki (1913-1974) delved into the avant-garde and modernist dialogue during his studies in Japan. Kim returned to Korea upon completing his studies at Nihon University in 1936 and survived the Korean War (1950-53). Three years after the war, he relocated himself to Paris (1956-59) and then to New York in 1963 after receiving critical international acclaim as the first Korean artist to participate in the 7th Sao Paulo Biennale (1963-74). In 1974, Kim passed away in New York at the age of 61.