The Korea Herald


Two exhibitions at Kukje highlight pioneering contemporary artists Lee U-fan, Alexander Calder

By Park Yuna

Published : April 5, 2023 - 10:13

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"Guava" by Alexander Calder (Calder Foundation, Art Resource)

American artist Alexander Calder and Korean artist Lee U-fan are pioneers of modern and contemporary art in sculpture and painting whose work is known for its philosophical aspects. Two exhibitions -- “Lee Ufan” and “Calder” -- taking place concurrently at Kukje Gallery in Seoul unveil the two master’s works, presenting lesser-known aspects of the artists.

Popularly known for his hanging mobiles, in which suspended elements move in harmony according to the air currents, Calder (1898-1976) developed a new method of sculpting by bending and twisting wire. It was Marcel Duchamp who coined the term "mobile" to describe Calder’s kinetic works as a pun on the French word, which means both “motion” and “motive.”

Calder would give intriguing titles to his works, provoking the audience's curiosity. Among his works is the mobile sculpture “Guava,” hanging from the ceiling and abstractly resembling tropical fruits on a vine, created with sheet metal, rod, wire and paint.

An installation view of the An installation view of the "CALDER" exhibition at Kukje Gallery (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald)

“Calder’s sculptures don’t have any meaning. He did not intend for us to have a specific understanding or experience. When he completed this sculpture, he looked at the sculpture, and the elements kind of reminded him of a fruit. It is not his intention that he saw the fruit and made a sculpture about the fruit. It was the opposite,” said Alexander S. C. Rower, president of the Calder Foundation, at the press preview on Tuesday.

The exhibition includes gouache paintings, which were a means for the artist to release energy after creating kinetic works. Calder found freedom while creating gouache paintings in a separate studio, Rower explained.

The gallery’s “Lee Ufan” show presents the artist’s first-ever shown works created this year. The latest work in Lee's "Relatum" series, “The Kiss" shows two stones touching as if they were kissing while surrounded by two chains positioned in circles on the ground in the rear room of the gallery. Next to the work is Lee’s new drawing series “Dialogue,” created with acrylic and charcoal, also unveiled for the first time.

"Relatum -- The Kiss" by Lee U-fan (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald)

“My work is extremely simple but has a unique physicality … it acts as an intermediary, an open gate, through which to see both sides. In short, my work is a place to encounter oneself and others, both the internal and external, suggesting a new reality,” the artist said about his work.

Another work, “Relatum – The Sound Cylinder,” which consists of a stone leaning on a hollow steel cylinder with five holes, echoes the sound of the Emile Bell -- also known as the Sacred Bell of Great King Seongdeok, the largest extant bronze bell in Korea – and the sounds of birds in the woods, rain and thunder. Stepping into the space dedicated to the work, ones may experience a time to focus on inner self.

“The exhibitions aim to put the spotlight on two pioneering contemporary artists from the west and east, respectively. We have organized the shows coinciding with the 14th Gwangju Biennale as many art people across the world visit the country during this time,” a gallery’s spokesperson said.