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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 Ufan

b. 1936, South Korea

As a progenitor of the Japanese Mono-ha, or School of Things, movement, Lee Ufan led a loose constellation of artists who championed the use of ordinary materials during the late 1960s, significantly altering the course of 20th-century Japanese art. Lee's dense yet poetic text, Beyond Being and Nothingness—A Thesis on Sekine Nobuo, provided something of an intellectual foundation for the movement. The group eschewed representation, choosing instead to zero in on the relationship between perception and material. Its main aim—as expressed by its key figures—was to demonstrate the fluid coexistence of objects, ideas and encounters.

In 1956, Lee began studying painting at the College of Fine Arts at Seoul National University, but after two months he relocated to Yokohama, Japan, where he went on to earn a degree in philosophy in 1961. During this period, the restrained painting style of his student work was in formal and conceptual opposition to the free expression of Gutai—the performance-oriented post-war Japanese art movement that anticipated Fluxus and inspired the work of Yves Klein, Allan Kaprow and Nam June Paik.

In the mid-1970s Lee became one of the major exponents of Korean Dansaekhwa ('Monochrome Painting')—a style that became one of the country's most important artistic developments in the 20th century—and the first from that period to bring the movement to Japan. Lee, along with the group's other loosely connected members, emphasised materiality as a means of producing relationships that link objects to viewers. In the repetitive gestural marks of his work, abstraction served to register the body's movement as well as the passage of time. With an eye towards modernist abstraction's best-known devices—seriality, gesture, grids and monochrome—Lee's paintings pushed the bounds of formalist paradigms. And through their affinity to and correspondence with Euro-American art, they proffered new forms of connection across seemingly incompatible ideological positions.

In his early painting series, 'From Point' and 'From Line' (1972–84), Lee combined ground mineral pigment with animal-skin glue, typical of the traditional Japanese Nihonga painting in which he had trained. Each fastidious brushstroke consisted of multiple simultaneous layers, and where the brush had first made contact with the support, the paint was thick, creating a 'ridge' that would gradually lighten. Rarely did Lee's brush touch the canvas separately more than three times, yet this economic application created a feeling of dynamic tension between gesture and picture plane characteristic of his paintings. In the early 1990s, Lee carried this through to his 'Correspondence' paintings, which consisted of a minimal number of grey-blue brushstrokes, applied on large white surfaces.

Lee's more recent and ongoing 'Dialogue' series, begun around 2006, considers philosophical notions of emptiness and fullness. These exist within a lineage of work that dates back to earlier works such as the 'From Line', 'From Point' and 'From Winds' series, which in the 1970s marked his transition from relatively small strokes predominantly in blue and orange to the intermixing of those colours and the predominance of grey tones from the 1980s.

Today Lee views his pristine white supports, enlivened by touches of paint, and his large site-specific sculptures made from stone and iron as materially opposed to the virtual nature of screen-based media that has now become so ubiquitous.

Although he is highly regarded as a painter, one of Lee's best-known series is 'Relatum' (1968–), three-dimensional groups of rocks dispersed with industrial materials such as steel sheets, glass panes and rubber. Lee began producing them as a response to 1960s Japan and its intensely turbulent socio-political climate. In each of these assemblages, the artist emphasises how constituent parts sit in relation to one another, to space and to surrounding objects, going beyond the enclosed network that is implied by the term 'sculpture' and its more conventional examples.

As well as being the recipient of numerous awards and honours, Lee is also represented in numerous prominent collections around the world. These include The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Tate Modern, London; The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo; The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto; and The National Museum of Art, Osaka.

In 2010, the Tadao Ando-designed Lee Ufan Museum was opened at the Benesse Art Site on the Japanese Island of Naoshima, dedicated to the artist and his legacy. Lee—a professor emeritus at Tama Art University, Tokyo, where he taught from 1973 to 2007—divides his time between France and Japan.

Tendai John Mutambu | Ocula | 2018
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Featured Artworks

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With Winds by  contemporary artwork With Winds, 1988 Oil and mineral pigment on canvas
72 x 90 cm
Tina Kim Gallery
Dialogue by  contemporary artwork Dialogue, 2018 Watercolour on paper
58 x 77 cm
Galerie nächst St. Stephan Rosemarie Schwarzwälder
Dialogue by  contemporary artwork Dialogue, 2017 Acrylic on canvas
145 x 114 cm
SCAI The Bathhouse
Dialogue by  contemporary artwork Dialogue, 2008 Oil on canvas
SCAI The Bathhouse
From Line (No. 790105) by  contemporary artwork From Line (No. 790105), 1979 Pigment suspended in glue on canvas
91 x 117 cm
Kukje Gallery
Correspondance by  contemporary artwork Correspondance, 1993 Pigment suspended in glue on canvas
130.3 x 162.2 cm
Pace Gallery
From Point (No. 760137) by  contemporary artwork From Point (No. 760137), 1976 Oil on canvas
91 x 73 cm
Tina Kim Gallery
Dialogue by  contemporary artwork Dialogue, 2018 Acrylic on canvas
291 x 218 x 3.8 cm
Pace Gallery

Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Lee Ufan, Lee Ufan at Pace Gallery, New York
14 September–13 October 2018 Lee Ufan Lee Ufan Pace Gallery, 510 West 25th Street, New York
Contemporary art exhibition, Group exhibition, Dansaekhwa and Minimalism at Blum & Poe, New York
14 April–21 May 2016 Group exhibition Dansaekhwa and Minimalism Blum & Poe, New York

Represented By

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In Ocula Magazine

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New York Autumn Exhibitions: The Lowdown Ocula Report New York Autumn Exhibitions: The Lowdown 14 Sep 2018 : Jareh Das for Ocula

The autumn exhibition season has officially kicked off in New York, with countless solo and group exhibitions featuring emerging, mid-career, and established artists, with some exhibiting works in the US for the first time. With a host of exhibitions to choose from, including a series of stellar museum exhibitions whose runs are nearing completion,...

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Top 5 booths at Art Busan 2016 Ocula Report Top 5 booths at Art Busan 2016 31 May 2016 : Angela Suh for Ocula

Located a stones throw from the famed Haeundae Beach, popularised in Korean cinema and countless K-dramas, Art Busan 2016 conveyed a leisurely air brought on by the first warm days of spring. Now in its fifth edition, the fair has grown into a sizeable event showcasing some of the best works in the region. With over 190 participating galleries...

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Dynamic Busan: More to see than just the sea Ocula Report Dynamic Busan: More to see than just the sea 31 May 2016 : Angela Suh for Ocula

The second largest city in South Korea, with a population of 3.6 million, Busan is a thriving metropolis situated at the south eastern end of the Korean peninsula. As a port city, Busan has a rich history of cultural exchange and is nationally acknowledged for its regional cuisine and diverse scenery. Reflecting its motto, 'Dynamic...

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Lee Ufan Ocula Conversation Lee Ufan Artist, Korea

Nowadays, Korean-born artist Lee Ufan needs little introduction. The combination of the opening of his own Tadao Ando-designed museum at the Benesse Art Site, Japan in 2010; his 2011 retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum, New York; and his major show at the Château de Versailles in 2014, have all meant that in recent years Lee Ufan has...

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In Related Press

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Ai Weiwei, Anish Kapoor and Marina Abramović lead major new exhibition Everything At Once at Store Studios Related Press Ai Weiwei, Anish Kapoor and Marina Abramović lead major new exhibition Everything At Once at Store Studios The Vinyl Factory : 8 September 2017

This October, Store Studios will host Everything At Once, an extensive off-site exhibition featuring 24 artists currently shown at Lisson Gallery in celebration of its 50th anniversary.

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Ha Chong-Hyun at Almine Rech Gallery, Paris Related Press Ha Chong-Hyun at Almine Rech Gallery, Paris ArtAsiaPacific : 23 May 2017

At Almine Rech Gallery in Paris, 21 of the artist's paintings, the majority of which were created in the past four years, demonstrated Ha's ability to imbue paint with the qualities of sculpture. The artist uses a methodical, labor-intensive process to create energetic paintings on hemp cloth, recalling the sacks of aid supplies distributed to...

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How a 'scream' of post-war Japanese art pioneered Modernism Related Press How a 'scream' of post-war Japanese art pioneered Modernism The Creators Project : 31 October 2016

These days, Japanese artists like Yayoi Kusama and Takashi Murakami pull big crowds and even bigger price tags, but it wasn’t always so. Vibrant though it was, the Japanese avant-garde was relatively unknown to Western audiences for most of the 20th century. This began to change in 1996 when scholar and author Alexandra Munroe, Senior Curator...

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Tate Modern's Switch House Related Press Tate Modern's Switch House Art Agenda : 23 June 2016

“When racism and sexism are no longer fashionable,” the Guerilla Girls asked in 1989, “what will your art collection be worth?” Predicting that “the art market won’t bestow mega-buck prices on the work of a few white males forever,” their printed notice listed 67 female artists (several of whom are now on...

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