Lee Kun-Yong is a Korean artist who rose to prominence in the 1970s as a pioneer of performance and avantgarde art in South Korea. Lee is most known for his 'Bodyscape' paintings, which involve the artist painting traces of his bodily movements across the canvas.Read More
Lee holds a BFA from Seoul's Hongik University (1967) and an MA in art education from Daegu's Keimyung University (1982).
Working across installation, performance, video, and painting, Lee is best known for documenting the human body and its movements in space and time.
As a young artist in 1970, Lee co-founded the avantgarde artist group Space and Time (ST). Members of the group, who were mainly young artists and art critics, discussed the latest trends in the international art world at a time when international literature relating to contemporary art had not widely been translated into Korean. With a focus on theory, ST also held exhibitions of avantgarde contemporary artworks.
Lee's work during this time foreshadows his interests in the kind of art that challenges traditional modes of artmaking. In 1973, representing South Korea at the Paris Biennale, Lee presented Corporeal Term, which saw the artist transfer a living tree into the exhibition space.
In the following years, Lee increasingly shifted towards performance as a means to explore the relationships between the body and space, and the artwork and viewer. Now recorded as videos, the artist's performance works include Five Steps (1975), first performed at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul, which shows Lee walking five steps from a single point and marking his actions on the floor.
By 1976, Lee had begun the ongoing 'Bodyscape' series, in which he paints on large-scale canvases from different angles—from the traditional position of facing the canvas to standing behind it—recording his movements in long, decisive strokes. Resulting paintings retain the sense of action in their uneven brushstrokes, having been made from different points of relation to the canvas, and dripped paint. In works such as Bodyscape 76-2-2019 (2019), the artist's silhouette can be made out from a patch of negative space surrounded by strokes of blue, white, red, and yellow that radiate from the centre.
Since he began exhibiting in the 1970s, Lee Kun-Yong has presented his work in numerous solo and group exhibitions as well as international art exhibitions, including the Paris Biennale (1973); Bienal de São Paulo (1979); Gwangju Biennale (2000); and Busan Biennale (2014).
More recent solo exhibitions include Lee Kun-Yong, Pace, Hong Kong (2022); Lee Kun-Yong: Bodyscape, Gallery Hyundai, Seoul (2021); Lee Kun-Yong: Relay Life, Busan Museum of Art (2019); Lee Kun-Yong, Pace, Beijing (2018); Lee Kun-Yong: Lee Kun-Yong in Snail's Gallop, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) Gwacheon (2014).
Select group exhibitions include The Avant-Garde: Experimental Art in South Korea, in 1960s—1970s, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York and National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul (2022); CORPUS GESTUS VOX, Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art, Ansan (2021); Awakenings: Art in Society in Asia 1960s—1990s, MMCA Gwacheon, National Museum of Modern Art (MOMAT), Tokyo, and National Gallery Singapore (2019); Renegades in Resistance and Challenge, Daegu Art Museum (2018); As the Moon Waxes and Waves, MMCA Gwacheon (2016).
The artist's Instagram can be found here.
Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2022
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