CHOI Byungso (b. 1943) has continued to work on changing the material properties of his medium through the performative act of erasing text on newspaper with a ballpoint pen and pencil, following his own unique methodology. The active incorporation of everyday objects such as newspapers, ballpoint pens, and pencils into his work manifests the expression of a distinctive spirit of experimentation, evident from the early stages of his artistic activities. Through performative and repetitive acts on the screen, materials salvaged from life are reimagined with completely new properties, distinct from their original identities.
In the history of contemporary art in Korea, CHOI Byungso's oeuvre occupies a special niche. His working process conspicuously reveals spirituality and performativity, and the visual results often present as monochrome screens, which resonate with the Dansaekhwa (Korean monochrome painting) movement prevalent in the 1970s Korean art scene. Indeed, he has shared paths with Dansaekhwa artists, participating in major exhibitions such as A Facet of Korean Contemporary Art (1977) at the Central Museum of Art in Tokyo, Japan, Ecole de Seoul (1976-1979), and Dansaekhwa of Korea (2012) at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea. Nonetheless, to classify CHOI Byungso simply as a Dansaekhwa artist would be to overly simplify and constrain his diverse artistic practices. His early works, such as the one involving a single iron core tied among several on the floor, the rotting of mackerel in exhibition spaces, and the interpretation of photographs as text, all exemplify the challenging spirit of the Korean experimental art movement of the 1960s and 70s. For example, Untitled (Bird) (1975), showcased at a solo exhibition at ARARIO GALLERY CHEONAN, utilizes a photograph of two birds from National Geographic magazine, juxtaposed with six English words—'sky', 'cloud', 'wind', 'birds', 'flying', 'meeting'—to investigate the interplay between image and text.
CHOI Byungso was a participant in the Korean Experimental Artists exhibition alongside PARK Hyunki, LEE Kang-So, and others in 1974, and played a pivotal role in the Daegu Contemporary Art Festival for five years. Starting at Keimyung University in 1974, the Daegu Contemporary Art Festival was Korea's inaugural contemporary art festival, escalating to a national event over five iterations until 1979, and is recognized as a cornerstone for the evolution of contemporary art in Korea. CHOI Byungso, LEE Kang-So, PARK Hyunki, Kim Ki-dong, and others were active as its founding members. Amidst the dialectic of figurative and abstract art, the Korean art scene was profoundly impacted by the integration of performance, avant-garde, and video art. CHOI Byungso also affiliated with the avant-garde group '35/128', a collective formed in 1975 by the youthful vanguard of the Daegu Contemporary Art Festival. The critic LEE Il, in the preface to the 1975 exhibition, praised the group, stating, "I highly esteem the unequivocal spirit of independence, the conviction in 'anti-power', and a readiness for transformation, which I regard as the most pressing demands of our nation's contemporary art, and I hold great expectations for the newly inaugurated '35/128'."