KANG, Ik-Joong (1960-)

Mixed media - crayon, rice paper and plastic on wood
211 x 211 cm
Date of entry at UNESCO
Country of origin Rep. Korea
Donating country Rep. Korea
Donation made to UNESCO by the artist through the Permanent Delegation of the Republic of Korea, to celebrate and share the spirit of the Korean alphabet, Hangul.
© Photo: UNESCO/P. Lagès
All rights reserved

This work was made by the artist Ik-Joong Kang in February 2007. It entered UNESCO’s works of Art Collection at the end of the same year, after having been presented at the UNESCO Advisory Committee for Works of Art 2nd meeting.

The work "Power of Youth" is composed of an assemblage of small 7,5cm cubes. These are aligned vertically and horizontally on a main panel, and separated from each other by a slight gap. This 7,5 x 7,5 cm format, initially used by Kang for practical reasons, became a standard format for many of his creations.

Ik-Joong Kang painted these cubes in bright, vibrant colors and inscribed upon each one, in different colors, a Hangul character. The colors are inspired by those that may be seen on Korean architecture.

The use of Hangul is for Kang a way to creating a bridge of hope between North and South Korea.

The Hangul alphabet was invented in the fifteenth century, thanks to the Sejong the Great who looked to transcribe his country’s language in the easiest possible way. Since the thirteenth century, the alphabet used had been a combination of Tibetan script and Uygur writing.

The use of Hangul completely evolved the alphabet, which according to experts is the most perfect from a scientific point of view. One should note that the term Hangul appeared only in the twentieth century in order to designate this Korean alphabet,

composed of fourteen consonants and eleven vowels which between them form syllabic blocks. These letters have no meaning by themselves and must be connected to one another in order to express an idea. It is for this reason that Kang likes using these syllabic blocks in his creations.

Using this writing, Ik-Joong Kang has here taken an excerpt from an essay written by Min Tae Won on the power of youth, which reads: "Youth gives birth to the spring wind, the birds song, celebrates life and new growth ...”Inherently nourished by hope, “Power of Youth” is representative of Kang’s work.

Biography of the artist

Ik-Joong Kang was born in 1960 in Cheong Ju, Republic of Korea. After beginning his studies in his native country, he moved to the United States at the age of 24 and enrolled in the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn (New York). In parallel to his art studies he worked in the New York subway, which is of great importance as it gave him the idea of working on small formats. The size most used by Kang is indeed 7,5 x 7,5cm.. This format allowed him to carry his art in his pockets when he went to work.

He began holding several exhibitions as of 1986, initially in the U.S.A. although quickly doing so elsewhere. He has also received numerous awards and distinctions and his works

have been acquired by certain museums, such as the Ludwig Museum in Cologne or the Museum of Contemporary Art of New York.

One of his major works "Amazed World," commissioned by the Republic of Korea and UNICEF, was exhibited at the UN Headquarters in New York, from September 2001 to April 2002.

He has also participated in installations in public places, such as the permanent wall found in the San Francisco international airport (2000).