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The Splendor of Hangul: The Korean Script in Calligraphy and Print

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Sterling Memorial Library
120 High Street, New Haven
Free and open to the public

Sponsored by Yale’s East Asia Library, this exhibit celebrates hangul, the alphabet developed in the fifteenth-century by the Korean King Sejong and a group of scholars he convened for this purpose. Featuring print and manuscript books from the Yale Library’s collections, as well as calligraphy by the distinguished artist Dr. Yoo Sung Lee, the exhibit traces the development of hangul styles over time, ranging from early geometric forms through gothic styles and finally to pure abstraction in art.

Until the promulgation of hangul by King Sejong in 1446, Chinese was used to represent the Korean language in print. Chinese characters were ill-suited for this purpose due to major differences between the two languages. Reliance on Chinese was also considered an impediment to the spread of literacy. Even after the systematization of hangul, Chinese continued to be used by elites during the remainder of the Choson dynasty (1392-1910). Even today, Korean can still be written with a mixture of Chinese characters and hangul. This gradual transition is illustrated through the works selected for exhibit.

Dr. Yoo Sung Lee is a professional calligrapher in practice for over thirty years. The pieces on display were chosen to show the development of hangul forms over time and in varying contexts. Some of the works on display were created especially for the exhibit. A native of Seoul, Korea, Dr. Lee has taught, lectured, and demonstrated the art of calligraphy widely. He has exhibited in the United States, France, China, and Korea. He is a member of the Korean American Calligraphy Association and the Art of Ink in American Society and also serves as President the Aram Calligraphy Group. Dr. Lee is the author of the chapter on Korean calligraphy in the World Encyclopedia of Calligraphy (forthcoming, 2009). He currently teaches at the Art Students League of New York.

The books on display are drawn from a number of collections at Yale, including East Asia Library works in Sterling Memorial Library, the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, and the Haas Family Arts Library Special Collections. The exhibit will run through March 31 and is free and open to the public. Sterling Memorial Library is located at 120 High Street and open Monday through Thursday 8:30 a.m.-5:45 p.m. and Friday 8:30 a.m.-4:45 p.m.; Saturday 10:00 a.m.-4:45 p.m.; Sunday 12 noon-5:45 p.m. The exhibit runs until March 31, 2009.