Exposition : Lee Ungno, The Epic of Abstraction

 

Lee Ungno : The Epic of Abstraction

 

Lee Ungno Museum, Taejon

Jusqu’au 25 mars 2018

 

The Epic of Abstraction, The Lee Ungno Museum’s first exhibition of 2018, gathers over a hundred works from the museum collection. The pieces on display, produced from the 1950s to the ‘80s, provide a sweeping view of the lifelong achievements of Lee Ungno. 2017 was a significant year for the Lee legacy. Influential art museums in France such as the Pompidou Centre and the Cernuschi Museum held grand retrospectives of his work, commemorating Lee’s outstanding career as a modern artist. In celebration of these events, the Lee Ungno Museum published a catalogue of the highlights of its collection. This exhibition presents the works introduced in that catalogue.

Drawing on traditional Korean art forms and media, Lee’s modernist practice made its mark in the European abstract art scene. His use of ink, paper, and Chinese characters, which can be thought of as Asian abstract patterns, distinguished his work from that of other Korean abstract artists who also relocated to Paris in the 1950s. In Paris, Lee’s semi-abstract methods, with its ink-and-wash and calligraphic influences, led to the development of his Abstract Letter series, which heralded a divergence from the abstractions of Western artists and a movement towards abstract art in Asian terms. The Epic of Abstraction demonstrates Lee’s commitment to an abstract art based on Eastern artistic sensibilities and practices.

The display of this exhibition invites you on a chronological journey through Lee’s career, charting its major developments. We begin with the Collage series, which allowed Lee to successfully make his debut in the 1960s’ Parisian art scene, and move through the early phase of the Abstract Letter series, which saw his exploration into Chinese characters as abstract patterns, and the later phase in which Lee re-imagined these characters as beautiful architectural forms. The exhibition also includes several works, only rarely on view before, which Lee produced during his imprisonment on false charges of involvement in the so-called East Berlin Affair. As is widely known, Lee was engaged, in the 1970s and ‘80s, in a number of productions of porcelain, tapestry, crystals, and commemorative coins in collaboration with the Baccarat Museum, the Sèvres National Ceramics Manufacture, the Gobelins Manufactory, and the Paris Mint. Among works produced during this time, a crystal paperweight Lee designed for the Baccarat Museum, based on the human forms of his People series, is here displayed for the first time in Korea. Also featured are pieces from his I-Ching series, which consists of 64 small ink drawings and 79 colourful ink-and-wash illustrations—intended for inclusion in a book, The Travels of Marco Polo—revealing the artist’s fertile imagination and the diversity of his artistic methods. Finally, the special focus of this exhibition is Lee’s People series. With a number of works from People, the exhibition emphasizes the link between their signature human forms and calligraphy, capturing the stylistic peak of Lee’s calligraphic abstraction and brushwork with all of its political and social implications.

The retrospectives held in Paris in 2017 underscored the originality of Lee’s artistic language. He was not a follower of artistic trends in the abstract world; rather, he was a bold experimenter who sought to revolutionize the language of Western art by introducing it and its practitioners to the unique qualities of Asian art. This large presentation of works will be an unmissable chance to appreciate the legacy of Lee Ungno and understand its meaning.

 

Lee Ungno, Composition, 1979, 180 x 154 cm, ink and light color on hanji paper © Lee Ungno Museum.

 

Lee Ungno Museum

157 Dunsandaero, Seo-gu, Daejeon 35204, South Korea

http://www.leeungnomuseum.or.kr/

 


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