The Korea Herald


Avant-garde artist Lee Seung-taek gets spotlight in New York at 90

By Park Yuna

Published : Feb. 7, 2023 - 09:48

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An installation view of An installation view of "Seung-Taek Lee: Things Unstable" at Canal Projects in New York (Gallery Hyundai)

Canal Projects, a nonprofit contemporary art institution in New York, has opened the show “Seung-Taek Lee: Things Unstable" to celebrate the pioneering South Korean avant-garde artist.

Lee has been a representative figure in Korean avant-garde art since the 1960s, contributing to the introduction of conceptual art to the local art scene decades ago.

The Canal Projects show presents 17 works by Lee, focusing on the artist’s signature concepts of “non-material,” “binding” and “photo pictures.” In the “non-material” series, Lee visualizes natural phenomenon, such as wind, fire or smoke, in performances or installations.

In 1970, Lee’s signature work “Wind” was installed at Seoul’s Hongik University, with which he sought to “visualize” the wind by hanging blue fabric between buildings.

Known as Korea's pioneering contemporary artist, his "binding" series is a rejection of conventional methods of creating sculptures. He used strings and twine to bind everyday objects or make indentations on the surface of the objects. Lee’s artistic practice aims to stir up the unique aspects of different materials.

“In Drawing – Wind Performance” by Lee Seung-taek (Gallery Hyundai) “In Drawing – Wind Performance” by Lee Seung-taek (Gallery Hyundai)

The current show includes the 90-year-old’s new work “In Drawing – Wind Performance” created for the exhibition in New York, which shows a red line drawn over a photo of the Canal Projects’ building in Soho, New York.

In a dramatic evocation of the drawing, a swath of red fabric will be installed and hung on the façade of the Canal Projects’ building during the Frieze New York, set for May 18 to 22, according to Gallery Hyundai which represents the artist in Seoul.

The performance “Lee’s Wind – Folk Amusement” will take place as part of a show by two young New York artists along the Hudson River on Feb. 25.

On April 22 -- which is Earth Day -- Lee's “Earth Performance” will invite participants in Manhattan to roll and push 5-meter-high rubber balloons resembling the Earth, a representation of the pressing issues facing the environment.

A special session on Feb. 23 led by Choi Soo-ran, who teaches art history, museum studies and visual cultural studies at New York University and CUNY Brooklyn College, will discuss Lee’s artistic legacy.

Canal Projects was established in September 2022, aiming to present forward-thinking artists to the global art scene.

The exhibition is the first presentation of the artist's work at a New York art organization. In 2017, Lee's solo exhibition was held at Levy Gorvy, a commercial gallery in New York.

A retrospective of Lee's works, “Lee Seung Taek’s Non-Art: The Inversive Act,” was held at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, in November 2020.

By Park Yuna (