Lee Ufan

19 Sep - 25 Oct 2008


PaceWildenstein presents Lee Ufan’s first American exhibition of work in a two-venue show at 32 East 57th Street and 534 West 25th Street

September 19 – October 25, 2008

NEW YORK, August 22, 2008—PaceWildenstein is pleased to announce the first American presentation of work by Lee Ufan in a two-part exhibition at 32 East 57th Street and 534 West 25th Street from September 19th through October 25th, 2008. A survey of Lee Ufan’s work from 1970 to the present, including works on paper, oil paintings and mixed media paintings on canvas will be installed at the gallery’s 57th Street location. New paintings from 2007-2008, a wall drawing and four iron and stone sculptures created in 2008 will be on view at the 25th Street gallery. A catalogue with an essay by art historian Silke von Berswordt-Wallrabe accompanies the exhibition. Berswordt-Wallrabe, who received her doctorate from the Albert-Ludwigs University in Feriburg, Germany, recently published a critical perspective of the artist’s work entitled Lee Ufan: Encounters with the Other (Steidl, 2007).
The artist will be present at an opening reception held on Thursday, September 18th from 6-8 pm at 534 West 25th Street.
“A successful dialogue,” Silke von Bersordt-Wallrabe writes in her catalogue essay, “is characterized by the fact that it keeps activity (one’s own utterances) and passivity (taking in, following, responding to one’s counterpart) in a dynamic balance.” Lee Ufan’s artistic work in both theory and practice, as well as his personal biography, demonstrate the artist’s mastery at crossing boundaries and initiating dialogues between cultures, philosophies, materials, and space. A founder and spokesperson of the Mono-ha (Object School) group, he mediates between gesture and nature, giving rise to new perceptions and creating “poetic moments of encounter between vision and the world.”
The 32 East 57th Street gallery will feature a survey of the artist’s work from 1970 to the present, including works on paper, oil paintings, and mixed media paintings on canvas. In his series From Point, Lee uses one brushful of paint to apply compact spots across the canvas until gradually they dissolve into the field negating the concept of positive and negative space. The artist spreads his large, rectangular canvases across the floor, and in a full- body gesture works in a carefully defined framework of repetition. As he drags his paintbrush across the surface, enabling the viewer to consciously experience the element of time embedded within, process as content is revealed.
Works from the series From Line, From Point, and With Winds use the repetitive action of brushstrokes on canvas to create a sense of dynamic tension between his gesture and the picture plane.
The philosophical ideas of fullness and emptiness come into play in Lee’s newer Dialogue series. Rather than the Western conception of these two elements as diametrically opposed, Lee considers the Eastern notion of the two elements merging into one another. The simple gesture of a single, carefully applied brushstroke is made perceptible by the unpainted canvas and vice-a-versa, creating a tension between the artist’s gesture and the natural materials that he brings into conversation with one another.
At 534 West 25th Street, new paintings from 2007-08, a wall drawing, and four iron and stone sculptures created in 2008 will be on view. Since the 1990’s, Lee has used the term “Relatum” to describe his three-dimensional works. Abandoning the traditional term “sculpture” he uses “Relatum” to suggest an individual element within a relation. Rather than the closed network that a relationship implies, a Relatum suggests a sense of openness, allowing the works to adapt to different contexts. Lee often attaches an additional subtitle to the work in order to conjure more specific interpretations.
Lee Ufan was born in Haman in Kyungsang Namdo, a remote mountain village in Korea, in 1936. He was raised by his grandfather, a strict Confucianist, his father, a journalist who traveled through Manchuria, China and Japan, and his mother, Lee Wihyo, who was well-versed in classical Korean literature and writing. Lee was amongst the last generation to receive a traditional Korean education. He began studying poetry, painting, and calligraphy at the age of five or six with Whang Kyun- Young (known by his painting name, Dongcho). In 1956 he entered the School of Art at Seoul National University. After visiting his ill uncle in Japan in 1956, he decided to stay in Japan and transferred into the philosophy department at Nihon University in 1958. At Nihon University, Lee sought to bridge East Asian and European thought and focused his studies on philosophers of intercultural significance. After receiving his degree in philosophy in 1961, he engaged in a wide variety of activities and gradually began to focus his attention on art. In the late 1960s, Lee emerged as one of the founders and major proponents of the avant-garde Mono-ha (Object School) group. Mono-ha, Japan’s first contemporary art movement to gain international recognition, rejected Western notions of representation and placed its emphasis on materials and perception, creating works from raw, natural materials with little manipulation.
Lee Ufan has received numerous honors and awards throughout his lifetime. He was awarded the Mainich Art Prize, Tokyo in 2005. In 2001 Lee received the prestigious 13th Praemim Imperiale for painting and the Hoam Prize of the Samsung Foundation, Seoul. He was also the recipient of the UNESCO Prize at the Shanghai Biennale in 2000. In 1977 Lee was awarded the prize of The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo and in 1969 was awarded the prize for critical writing, “From Object to Being,” Tokyo.
Lee Ufan received international acclaim for his solo exhibition, Resonance, at the 52nd Venice Biennale in 2007. This spring, a retrospective of the artist's work will be mounted at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels. Lee Ufan’s work has been featured in more than 110 solo exhibitions since 1967 and he has participated in more than 120 group shows. In November of 2006, the Kunst Situation, a museum associated with Bochum University in Germany, inaugurated a gallery devoted to a permanent installation of the artist's paintings and a garden of his sculpture. Major exhibitions of Lee’s recent painting and sculpture were held at the Yokohama Museum of Art in September of 2005 and the Musée d’art Moderne Saint-Etienne in France in December 2005. In 2001, a survey of his paintings from 1973- 2001 was mounted at Kunstmuseum Bonn, Germany. Other significant shows include Lee Ufan, Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume, Paris (1997); The National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul (1994); the Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura (1993 & 1994); Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo (1990); Traces of Sensitivity and Logic at the Museum of Fine Art, Gifu (1988); Marl Sculpture Museum, Germany (1979); Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark (1978); and at the Düsseldorf Kunsthalle, Düsseldorf (1978).
Lee Ufan’s work can be found in nearly 60 public collections worldwide, including the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Centre Georges Pompidou, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris; Chiba City Museum of Art, Japan; Fondazione Mudima, Milan; Fukuoka Museum of Art, Japan; Galerie Nationale de Prague, Czech Republic; Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art, Sapporo, Japan; Ho-Am Art Museum, Seoul; Hakone Open-Air Museum, Kanagawa, Japan; Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; Kröller-Müller Rijksmuseum, Otterloo, The Netherlands; Kunsthaus Zurich, Switzerland; Kunstmuseum Bonn, Germany; Leeum Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul; Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, Japan; Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura & Hayama, Japan; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, Shiga, Japan; Museum of Modern Art, Toyama, Japan; Museum of Modern Art, Wakayama, Japan; National Museum of Art, Osaka, Japan; National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul; National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Japan; National Museum of Modern Art, Seoul; National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo; Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin; Niigata Prefectural Museum of Art, Japan; Ohara Museum of Art, Okayama, Japan; Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Australia; Seoul Municipal Museum of Art, Korea; Setagaya Art Museum, Tokyo; Sonja Henle-Niels Onstad Museum, Oslo, Norway; Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Germany; Städelmuseum, Frankfurt am Main; Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Germany; Tate Gallery, London; Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Japan; and Toyota Municipal Museum of Art, Aichi, Japan.
Lee Ufan divides his time between Kamakura, Japan and Paris, France. An artist, writer, and philosopher, he is also a professor at Tama Art University, Tokyo, where he has taught since 1973.
For more information on Lee Ufan please contact Jennifer Benz Joy at or Lauren Staub at or 212.421.3292.

Tags: Ufan Lee, Lee Ufan