Magazine article Artforum International

Lee Inhyeon: Gaain Gallery

Magazine article Artforum International

Lee Inhyeon: Gaain Gallery

Article excerpt

An integral member of Seoul 80, the flagship avant-gardist collective of the Korean contemporary-art scene circa 1980, Lee Inhyeon is the embodiment of the artist as intellectual. Lee's first solo show in three years featured a dozen new works from the ongoing series he's been working on since 1993, all with the Foucauldian title L'episteme of Painting.

A prototypical work by Lee is a color-field painting that sets dark Prussian blue against the natural beige of unprimed canvas. The brown/blue monochrome tradition in Korea has been the emblem of serious and respected scholar-painters since the era of ink paintings. Artists of the prior generation, such as Lee Ufan and Yun Hyong-Keun, often indulged in the subtlety of tonal variations within a single hue; their works were regarded as spiritual and noble owing to their solemn outlook. While Lee's paintings are at the edge of such conventions of sublimity, they abound in devices showing him to be critical of any strictly modernist construction.

Characteristically, all of Lee's works are mounted on thick stretchers, about four inches in depth; thus, the paintings stand out against the wall, taking on the forceful presence of Minimalist objects. Just as Frank Stella made reference to the thickness of stretcher bars in his paintings and Jo Baer saw creative potential on the sides of her canvases, Lee is extremely sensitive to this depth of painting that completes its three-dimensionality. While coloring the front of the canvas in uniform Prussian blue, he creates gradations on its sides from deep to light blue, by letting the thinned paint gradually seep into the raw canvas. …

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