GU Bonju(b.1967-2003) is a sculptor of the political and social turbulence of the Republic of Korea and the lives of laborers. The artist pursued “Realism” that art reflects and views reality, wanted to express fiercely the society and ordinary military images by expanding material that laborers could empathize with. While working at the Union Art Research Center at late 80s, he supported the union’s cultural education, union publications, and the production of equipment for onsite strikes. Works from this period, where he was standing at the forefront of the labour movement, are roughly in wood and clay, as though recording his experiences from the field, and reflect his deliberations on realism. His warm attitude towards working class people, replaced by a structure of “workers who support the country” and “father who protect the home”, representing the frustrated or repressed image of surrounding, but not losing vitality spirit. Their joys, sorrows and wounds, captured in a dramatic expressive technique and at rather audacious scale, are both a caricature and a knife-edge endeavor toward social criticism. GU’s belief that the true democracy that Minjoong Art aimed for lived and breathed among the public alongside art is revealed through his short but charged life. In his 30s as a young artist, he was renowned as a realist sculptor from the art world but he died in an accident at the age of 37 in 2003.
As the artist died in 2003, starting with the Gwangju Shinsegae Gallery (Gwangju, Korea) in September 2004, a large-scale memorial exhibition was held simultaneously at the Insa Art Center (Seoul, Korea), Savina Museum (Seoul, Korea), and Deokwon Gallery (Seoul, Korea) in December of same year. Since then, a memorial exhibition has been held at M Gallery (Daegu, Korea, Ahmedabad University Art Museum) in 2006, Noon Gallery (Seoul, Korea) in 2007, Kiryung Electronic Agricultural Chunmak Museum (Seoul, Korea) in 2008, and Leah Gallery (Seoul, Korea) at Yongsan-disaster site in 2009. In 2011, the "Gubonju Art Award" was established to mark the 8th memorial, and in 2013, a memorial exhibition for the 10th anniversary was held at the Sungkok Museum of Art (Seoul, Korea). In 2017, 15th memorial exhibtion, <I’m Home.> was held at the Arario Museum(Jeju, Korea).
GU Bonju’s solo exhibition was held at Seoul Arts Center Hangaram Art Museum (Seoul, Korea), Gallery Savina (Seoul, Korea) in 1999, and Kumho Gallery (Seoul, Korea) in 1995. In addition he participated in the group exhibition: Gwangju Museum of Art (Gwangju, Korea) in 2003, Sunggok Museum (Seoul, Korea) in 2001, Seoul Arts Center (Seoul, Korea), Busan Sea Art Festival (Busan, Korea), International Sculpture Symposium Icheon (Icheon, Korea) in 2000, International Sculpture Symoposium Anseong (Anseong, Korea) in 1997, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (Seoul, Korea) in 1994. In 1987, he won the bronze prize at the Countrywide College Arts Exhibition organized by the Ministry of Culture and Education, and the grand prize at the MBC Korean Figurative Sculpture Exhibition in 1993, and the Moran Artist Award in 1995. He was selected as KBS Culture Love "Discover, The Person" hosted by the Personnel Selection Committee in 1999, 500 artists from the Korea Arts & Culture Education Service in 2000, as sculptor of the Standard Portrait Restoration, Saints Kim Taegon in 2001, and as an young artist of the 1st Seoul Arts Center (SAC) in 2002.