home > exhibitions > current:

AHN, Sekwon, Triptych, chromogenic photographs from the series Seoul New Town (2003–2007). Courtesy of the artist. Lights of Weolgok-dong, 2005. Disappearing Lights of Weolgok-dong I, 2006. Disappearing Lights of Weolgok-dong II, 2007.

Chaotic Harmony: Contemporary Korean Photography
July 3 - September 19, 2010
McCormick and Davidson Galleries

For more information on individual works, artist profiles, event information, and more, go to our exhibition blog at

Click here to view an interview with Karen Sinsheimer, SBMA's Curator of Photography, and David Starkey as seen on "The Creative Community."

Related Exhibitions

Everyday Realities  [more info]
Von Romberg Gallery

Seoungwon Won's Installation: My Life  [more info]
Emmons Gallery

The first major exhibition in the United States of photographs made by contemporary Korean artists presently living in Korea, Chaotic Harmony: Contemporary Korean Photography opens a window to the dynamic photographic scene in the Republic of Korea, known in the West as South Korea. Bringing together work by 40 contemporary photographers, this presentation of 42 large-scale images surveys the range of contemporary issues through the themes of land and sea; urbanization and globalization; family, friends, and memory; identity: cultural and personal; and anxiety.

Within the exhibition, two distinct generations of Korean artists are represented: those born in the mid-1950s and 1960s, during a succession of military dictatorships when the country was still largely agrarian, and those born in the 1970s, predominantly in urban areas and who came into maturity in the new democratic era which began in 1987.

Co-organized by Karen Sinsheimer, Curator of Photography at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and Anne Wilkes Tucker, The Gus and Lyndall Wortham Curator of Photography at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, this groundbreaking exhibition is not a presentation on “Koreanness,” although issues of cultural and personal identity are strong components. Rather, it is an attempt to identify Korea as a source of complex and stimulating visual ideas expressed through the medium of photography.

An illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition, co-published by the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and distributed by Yale University Press. The catalogue presents one of the first overviews of the artists, subjects, and themes in contemporary Korean photography, with scholarly essays by Tucker and Sinsheimer; a chronology of post-World War II developments by noted photographer and curator Bohnchang Koo; an exhibition checklist; and brief biographies of the artists, compiled by MFAH photography curatorial assistant Natalie Zelt. The catalogue is available in the Museum Store.

This exhibition is made possible through the generosity of the Charles and Mildred Bloom Fund, Lewis Bloom and Clay Tedeschi, Amanda and Jim McIntyre, the Dana and Albert R. Broccoli Charitable Foundation, SBMA PhotoFutures, Eric Skipsey, Korea Foundation (Seoul), and Korean Cultural Center (Los Angeles).

Left: Hyo Jin In, Stiletto #07, n.d.  Right: Chan-Hyo Bae, Existing in Costume 5, 2007

Everyday Realities
July 3 - September 19, 2010
Von Romberg Gallery

Photographs by artists who live on the Pacific Rim have been one major area of focus within the photography collection at SBMA. Recently, significant works created by artists who live in Japan, China, as well as the Americas have been added to the collection and exhibited at the Museum.  This exhibition focuses on newly acquired works made by several young, dynamic photographers who live in the Republic of Korea. The astonishing transformation, and to some extent dislocation, that has taken place in South Korea over the past two decades is reflected in many of these images as photographers strive to give visual expression to the realities of contemporary life. While many of the works displayed here reflect the seismic shifts of a changing nation, others are inspired by the extraordinary and timeless beauty of the Korean landscape.  The chosen artists, taken from a large field of promising young talent, represent the unique visual
voices being formed in the dynamic climate of South Korea.

WON Seoung Won, 3 images from My Life, 1999. 629 Chromogenic prints. SBMA, Museum Purchase with funds provided by PhotoFutures.

Seoungwon Won's Installation: My Life
July 3 - September 19, 2010
Emmons Gallery

In her installation titled My Life, Seoungwon Won creates a visual portrait of herself as graduate student, living in an apartment approximately eight square meters (the size of a solitary prison cell).  In a re-creation of the apartment, Won will install photographs of all 629 objects that inhabited her claustrophobic space for four years. “Because only the objects that I needed and valued existed, the objects and myself were one and the same.” When she bought a new object, she had to throw away an object, a choice which was always distressing.

Toward the end of her stay, Won spent two days and one night recording the objects that persevered after four years of study in Germany. She wrote the profile of the objects next to the photographs which did not take long to recollect…”I ran into them everyday for four years.” The result was astonishing to the artist. “Everything about a person called Seoungwon Won, even things that I was not aware of, were displayed like a diary.”

Living in a such a confined space, an immigrant experience the world over, made Won dream of escape, an idea that echoes throughout her work. Viewing the container that held both the necessities of life and the boundless imagination of one young woman, offers the opportunity to reflect on the things that crowd individual lives, and perhaps to ponder where the spark that ignites artistic impulse lives.  

Copyright © 2015 Santa Barbara Museum of Art. No images or information may be reproduced,transmitted or copied without permission.