Artsonje Center is pleased to present Lee Bul’s solo exhibition from September 9 to November 4, 2012. Lee’s first solo museum show in Korea was held at Artsonje Center back in 1998, attracting the heightened interest of the contemporary art world. Since then she has established herself as one of the leading artists of her generation, developing a body of work acclaimed for its expansive, insightful inquiry into various historical and social phenomena. By re-inviting the artist 14 years later, the Artsonje hopes to trace the contours of Lee’s artistic trajectory and provide a platform to open up a new chapter in her practice.
The evolution of Lee Bul’s artistic spectrum is presented in “The Studio” section of the exhibition, which features approximately 220 drawings, models, and preparatory studies for some of her best-known works-including sculptures from her Cyborgs and Anagrams series, Mon grand recit series, and the recent work The Secret Sharer. These accumulated traces of the artist’s intellectual and visual research over the past decades are presented in a space structurally transformed by Lee Bul so that it functions as an architectural sculpture in its own right.
Via Negativa, a new, large-scale sculptural installation, reflects the artist’s continuing exploration of spatial as well as conceptual dimensions. The title refers to a theological term for the attempts to describe God, divine good, or the ideal by negation, by going beyond the realm of ordinary perception and conventional thinking. Designed to allow the passage of a single person at a time, Via Negativa’s labyrinthine corridors are lined with mirrors giving off endless, fragmentary reflections and leads to a central chamber fitted with panels of one-way glass producing an illusion of infinitely receding space.
Lastly, Bunker (M. Bakhtin), part of Lee’s Mon grand recit series, is presented for the first time in Korea. Combining sculptural and interactive sonic elements, Bunker brings together a range of references revolving around Yi Gu, the last heir to Joseon Dynasty, which came to an end with the Japanese colonial occupation of Korea. A tragically emblematic figure in the emergence of Korea as a modern nation, Yi Gu was a young architect in I.M. Pei’s New York office when he was summoned back to Korea by Park Chung-hee, who sought to shore up his dictatorial regime by enacting a symbolic restoration of Joseon Dynasty. Yi led an unhappy life under Park’s regime and eventually returned to Japan a broken man and died in a Tokyo hotel room. Bunker integrates various strands running through Yi Gu’s life into a sculptural form that also serves as a vessel for sonic reconfiguration-via acoustic sampling and computer modeling-of sounds made by the viewer into different aural dimensions, immaterial spaces and landscapes connected to Yi Gu’s biography. Situated at the intersection of the past and the present, the experiential and the conceptual, public histories and private stories, the work highlights the salient qualities of Lee Bul’s artistic investigations.
Lee Bul has been featured in solo exhibitions throughout the world, including Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2012); Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris (2007); Domus Artium, Salamanca (2007); Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (2004); Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow (2003); The Power Plant, Toronto (2002); MAC, Galeries Contemporaines des Musees de Marseille, Marseille (2002); and New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (2002). In 1999, Lee was awarded a prize at the 48th Venice Biennale for her contribution to both the Korean Pavilion and the international exhibition in the Arsenale curated by Harald Szeemann. She was also a finalist for the 1998 Hugo Boss Prize.