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Sharjah Biennial 14: Leaving the Echo Chamber Ocula Report Sharjah Biennial 14: Leaving the Echo Chamber 15 Mar 2019 : Stephanie Bailey for Ocula

In Meiro Koizumi's three-channel video installation, The Angels of Testimony (2019), the central frame features an interview with Hajime Kondo about his time as a solider of the Imperial Japanese Army during the Second Sino-Japanese War. The conversation centres on war crimes perpetrated in China, including the beheading of Chinese prisoners for...

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Diana Campbell Betancourt Ocula Conversation Diana Campbell Betancourt

Diana Campbell Betancourt is a curator working predominantly across South and Southeast Asia. Since 2013 she has been the founding artistic director of the Samdani Art Foundation and chief curator of the Dhaka Art Summit in Dhaka, Bangladesh, a transnational art event that has grown in size and scale ever since its first edition in 2012. Backed by...

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Chinternet Ugly at Manchester’s Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art Ocula Report Chinternet Ugly at Manchester’s Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art 7 Mar 2019 : Mike Pinnington for Ocula

China, home to 802 million internet users, is subject to sophisticated online censorship. This shrouded state of affairs, unsurprisingly perhaps, serves to reinforce stereotypes around conformity elsewhere. Any realm, digital or otherwise, subject to such strict scrutiny must necessarily be bland and uncritical, right? I was mulling over such...

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Lee Bul

b. 1964, South Korea

Provocative and inventive, Lee Bul (이불) is one of the leading Korean artists of her generation. Though she has worked in performance, sculpture, painting, installation and video, she is most known for her monstrous sculptures, cyborgs and utopian landscapes. Born to dissident parents during the military dictatorship of Park Chung-Hee in South Korea, Lee emerged in the 1990s through works that channelled the emotional impact of political persecution and restrictive gender roles into visual form. Since then, the artist has investigated human desires for perfection and stability and the implications of technology in the contemporary world.

After completing her studies at Hongik University in 1987, Lee embarked on her career as a performance artist on the streets of Korea and Japan. Donning soft wearable sculptures that were described as 'simultaneously alluring and grotesque' by Ikon Gallery, she addressed the themes of political instability and gender roles in a then—and still—very conservative and male-dominated Korean society. In Cravings (1989), Lee transformed herself into a monstrous creature, whose tentacles and externalised internal organs alluded to the anxieties of the artist and her fellow citizens living under conditions fraught with government censorship and civil unrest. The performance later developed into 'Monster' (1998–2011), a series where the wearable sculptures evolved into freestanding statues. Abortion, also performed in 1989, showed the artist hanging upside down from the ceiling and generated controversy for Lee's bold critique of Korean traditions regarding women's bodies and sexuality. Around this time, Lee also participated in the founding of Museum, an underground collective of avant-garde artists, performers and musicians in Seoul whose members are still influential in Korea today.

Lee's work from the 1990s explores the human body in its relation to beauty, life, death and technology. Majestic Splendor (1997)—an installation created for The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York—consisted of a decaying fish adorned with sequins, beads and flowers in a glass display case. Although the exhibition closed prematurely due to its smell, curator Harald Szeemann invited Lee to recreate it in the Lyon Biennale that same year. In a powerful visualisation of the metamorphosis from the beautiful to the sickening, Lee highlighted the inevitable cycle of life and death.

Her iconic 'Cyborg' (1997–2011) series, on the other hand, examines the human desire for the perfect body. Cyborg Red and Cyborg Blue, both completed in 1997 as a pair, show silicon casts of female figures based on Greco-Roman statues with machine-like body parts. Because Lee's cyborgs often appear as females, they have been regarded as a critique of the social expectation for women to have idealised bodies. However, the artist has shown that her concerns extend to mankind at large in her karaoke installations, including Gravity Greater than Velocity (1999) and Live Forever (2002). Safely tucked in the empty karaoke capsules and pods, the human body is reduced to its sensory functions—technology may be alluring, but humankind has reason to be alarmed about its advancements.

In the new millennium, Lee shifted away from the body to human desires for utopia. 'Mon grand récit', an ongoing series since 2005, features futuristic ruins and landscapes comprised of small-scale railways, LED signs and architectural structures. Perched on skeletal frameworks, Lee's landscapes are a fragile mass that could collapse in a matter of seconds—as unrealised hopes often do in utopias. Lee has also begun to incorporate reflective materials in her architectural installations, most notably in After Bruno Taut (Devotion to Drift) (2013)—a floating palace of crystal beads, chains and mirrors. Inspired by the futuristic ideals and works of Bruno Taut, a 20th-century German architect and the creator of the Glass Pavilion, Lee uses reflectivity to allude to utopian ideals as well as a means to think about military Korea, now several decades in the past.

Lee has regularly exhibited internationally at venues such as Art Sonje Center, Seoul (2012); Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2012); Domus Artium 2002, Salamanca (2007); Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney (2004); the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (2002); and Musée d'Art Contemporain, Marseille (2002). Her work is also part of many public collections. These include Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Mori Art Museum, Tokyo; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; 4Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; and Yu-un, Obayashi Collection, Tokyo. She has had works included in the Biennale of Sydney (2016), Gwangju Biennale (2014), Taipei Biennial (2006–7) and Venice Biennale (1999). Today, the artist lives and works in Seoul, Korea.

Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2017
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Featured Artworks

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Willing to be Vulnerable by Lee Bul contemporary artwork Lee BulWilling to be Vulnerable, 2015/2019 Site-specific installation of heavy-duty fabric, metalised film, transparent film, polyurethane ink, fog machine, LED lighting, and electronic wiring
Lehmann Maupin
Perdu XXI by Lee Bul contemporary artwork Lee BulPerdu XXI, 2019 Mother of pearl pigment and acrylic paint on lacquered wood base panel with steel frame
163.3 x 113.3 x 6.6 cm
Lehmann Maupin
Untitled (Mekamelencolia - Velvet #11 DDRG28BR) by Lee Bul contemporary artwork Lee BulUntitled (Mekamelencolia - Velvet #11 DDRG28BR), 2018 Human hair, mother of pearl, acrylic paint, dried flower on silk velvet
130 x 285 x 3.2 cm
Lehmann Maupin
Untitled (Mekamelencolia - Velvet #12 DDRG24OC) by Lee Bul contemporary artwork Lee BulUntitled (Mekamelencolia - Velvet #12 DDRG24OC), 2019 Human hair, mother of pearl, acrylic paint, dried flower on silk velvet
130 x 96 cm
Lehmann Maupin
Untitled (Mekamelencolia - Velvet #6 DDRG10NB) by Lee Bul contemporary artwork Lee BulUntitled (Mekamelencolia - Velvet #6 DDRG10NB), 2018 Human hair, mother of pearl, acrylic, dried flower, and ink on silk velvet
145 x 207.5 x 10.5 cm
Lehmann Maupin
Untitled (Mekamelencolia - Velvet #6 DDRG10NB) by Lee Bul contemporary artwork Lee BulUntitled (Mekamelencolia - Velvet #6 DDRG10NB), 2018 Human hair, mother of pearl, acrylic, dried flower, and ink on silk velvet
145 x 207.5 x 10.5 cm (incl frame)
Lehmann Maupin
Untitled (Mekamelencolia - Velvet #5 DDRG18LM) by Lee Bul contemporary artwork Lee BulUntitled (Mekamelencolia - Velvet #5 DDRG18LM), 2018 Human hair, mother of pearl, acrylic, dried flower, and ink on silk velvet
145 x 207.5 x 10.5 cm (incl frame)
Lehmann Maupin
Untitled (Anagram Leather #8) by Lee Bul contemporary artwork Lee BulUntitled (Anagram Leather #8), 2003/2018 Leather covered cast fiberglass, stainless steel, and stainless steel wire
48.03 x 23.62 x 10.63 inches
Lehmann Maupin

Recent Exhibitions

Contemporary art exhibition, Lee Bul, Solo Exhibition at Lehmann Maupin, New York
Closed
12 January–11 February 2017 Lee Bul Solo Exhibition Lehmann Maupin, 536 West 22nd Street
Contemporary art exhibition, Lee Bul, Lee Bul at PKM Gallery, Seoul
Closed
26 August–26 September 2015 Lee Bul Lee Bul PKM Gallery, Seoul
Contemporary art exhibition, Lee Bul , Inaugural Hong Kong Exhibition at Lehmann Maupin, Hong Kong
Closed
14 March–11 May 2013 Lee Bul Inaugural Hong Kong Exhibition Lehmann Maupin, Hong Kong

Represented By

In Ocula Magazine

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EVA International: Ireland’s Biennial Talks About Power Ocula Report EVA International: Ireland’s Biennial Talks About Power 6 Jul 2018 : Stephanie Bailey for Ocula

If Koyo Kouoh's 37th EVA International took the Easter Rising of 1916 as its starting point, marking the beginning of a revolutionary period that culminated in the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922, then Inti Guerrero's follow-up edition continues the trajectory.With no title, the 38th edition of EVA International (14 April–8 July...

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Gwangju Biennale: Burning Down The House Ocula Report Gwangju Biennale: Burning Down The House 4 Oct 2014 : Jeesun Park for Ocula

Gwangju is only the sixth largest city in Korea but its history has become well-known to art audiences around the world through its provocative biennale, now a fixed event in the international art calendar. The Gwangju Biennale began twenty years ago specifically to commemorate the historic fight for democracy that took place in the city, known...

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Phong Bui Ocula Conversation Phong Bui Curator, 'Bloodflames Revisited'

In March 2014, a show opened at Paul Kasmin Gallery titled Alexander the Great: The Iolas Gallery 1955–1987, which celebrated the legendary gallerist Alexander Iolas, who was among the first to introduce American audiences to Surrealism and who gave Andy Warhol his first gallery exhibition (and, coincidentally, also his last in 1987). The...

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Rachel Lehmann Ocula Conversation Rachel Lehmann Founding Partner of Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong

Rachel Lehmann is not only one half of the gallery powerhouse that is Lehmann Maupin, but she is also an international citizen of the world. Lehmann was born in Asmara, Ethiopia, and studied at the University of Fribourg in France. She worked at the legendary Sonnabend Gallery in New York, and was the proprietor of two contemporary galleries in...

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In Related Press

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Lee Bul at Hayward Gallery, London Related Press Lee Bul at Hayward Gallery, London ArtReveiw : 10 July 2018

Feminist science-fiction has long played on the idea that women are liberated when humans are confronted with other intelligences.

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Lee Bul’s Intergalactic Feminist World Ignites Hayward Related Press Lee Bul’s Intergalactic Feminist World Ignites Hayward Elephant : 30 May 2018

The sci-fi imagination of Lee Bul literally lit up the Hayward Gallery last night, as one of the artist’s works set on fire just an hour before the private view was scheduled to occur. It was an appropriate moment for the exhibition, as the works look as though they have smashed into the gallery from another cosmos.

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Korean Cultural Centre UK Related Press Korean Cultural Centre UK e-flux : 15 June 2017

The history of what in Europe and North America has been categorised in an art-historical context as performance art is one that continues to be revised and retold in East Asia. The body as a tool, language and artistic medium developed in the visual arts in Korea under precarious social and political environments and conditions.

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Sydney Biennale 2016: big, brash and still grappling with refugees and migration Related Press Sydney Biennale 2016: big, brash and still grappling with refugees and migration The Sydney Morning Herald : 16 March 2016

Inside one of Carriageworks' vast railway workshops, a group of women painstakingly shift sand like archaeologists searching for ancient artefacts.But their treasure is not buried beneath the ground. Instead, they pour coloured sand into jagged shapes across the concrete floor to form artist Lee Mingwei's Guernica in Sand, a large-scale...

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In Related Video

2016 artist interview series: Lee Bul Related Video & Audio 2016 artist interview series: Lee Bul Biennale of Sydney : 20 May 2016

Artist Lee Bul reveals her thinking and inspiration behind her site-specific installation at the Turbine Hall of the Industrial Precinct on Cockatoo Island, titled Willing To Be Vulnerable (2015–16) for the Embassy of the Real.

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