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Almine Rech

Ha Chong-Hyun

Feb 23 — Apr 1, 2023 | Paris, Matignon

Almine Rech Paris, Matignon, is pleased to announce Ha Chong-Hyun's forth solo exhibition with the gallery.
Ha Chong-Hyun’s name as it is known in English is emblematic of his place within modern Korean history. The consonant ㅈ in his given name that follows his surname Ha (하) is far closer to the “j” sound rather than the “ch.” Under the current revised romanization of Korean that went into effect in the year 2000, his name would have been spelled Ha Jong-Hyun. But with McCune-Reischauer, which was used in Korea since 1937, becoming the official system from 1984 until 2000, Ha would have adopted the spelling as we know him by today. It is not that I have any interest in proposing a new spelling for Ha’s name, but for those who do not speak Korean, I wonder if we could, in the space of this text, get to know the sound, tone, and texture of how Ha would be called in his own country, what he would have been called by his mother, father, and friends: 하종현.
I mention this because it has great bearing on my encounter of the artist. Though he is an art historical figure as well as a contemporary artist to be reckoned with, I approach him first as I would an elder and therefore, my instinct in writing about Ha is to begin with his name. In Korea, names are deemed so sacred that it is seen as an obscenity to utter the name of an elder, whether teachers, parents, grandparents or other ancestral relations, directly. Therefore, when absolutely necessary to mention the name of such a person, it is an etiquette to repeat each syllable in the given name, followed by the word “자” for character, thereby relaying the name as a linguistic notion rather than as a singular proper noun. Ha himself is an artist who is sensitive to names and language around how his and the art of his contemporaries were talked about. In speaking about the term Korean Monochrome versus Dansaekhwa, he has stated, “I believe we cannot allow the West to name a Korean creation. It is indeed a somewhat unfamiliar name to us, but the works we do and the name Dansaekhwa share a certain tone and character.”

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