White Cube is pleased to present a survey exhibition of South Korean artist Seung-taek Lee curated by Katharine Kostyál at Mason’s Yard.
As one of the first generation of South Korean artists to embrace radical experimentation in art, Lee has been at the forefront of the Korean avant-garde since the 1960s. Although formally trained as a sculptor, Lee is best known for his practice of negation, which he has alternatively conceptualised as ‘non-sculpture’, ‘non-material’ or ‘anti-concept’. As an acute response to and reaction against rapidly transforming conditions in South Korea – from its emergence as a divided nation following three decades of Japanese colonialisation (1910-45) and the Korean War (1950-53), to its development into a modernised, global nation – Lee’s work has persistently unsettled established forms of contemporary Korean art. Yet his locally-specific experiments, especially those of the 1960s and 1970s, invite comparison with other contemporaneous movements such as Land Art, Art Povera and Post-Minimalism.
Spanning several decades, Lee’s multifarious oeuvre privileges no single medium or style, often incorporating aspects of painting, drawing, sculpture, installation and performance within the same work. Lee’s first comprehensive solo exhibition in the UK brings together works from the 1960s until the present day, revealing his particular sensitivity towards materiality and cultural specificity. Central to this survey exhibition are his recreated monumental sculptures from the 1960s, presented for the first time since their destruction. Reconfiguring earthenware jars known as Oji, which were traditionally used in Korean households to store condiments, Lee constructed a series of emphatically abstract structures that seem to protrude from the ground. Removed from the pedestal, Lee’s Oji series are placed directly on the ground and have occupied multiple sites, ranging from the gallery floor to sculpture gardens and remote wilderness. He incorporated everyday objects, folk materials and even intangible elements such as wind and sound to subvert their intended function and meaning.
Seung-taek Lee was born in Kowon, Hamkyung Province of North Korea, in 1932. Since the Korean War he has lived and worked in Seoul, South Korea. Following his studies at Hong Ik University, Lee taught Fine Art and Art History at Ewha Womans University, Mokwon University, Dankook University and University of Seoul for over two decades. During this period he published Woman Sculpture of the World (sic, 1975), a 400-page visual compendium on the theme of female nude in the history of sculpture. He has exhibited internationally including solo shows at Palazzo Caboto, Venice (2017); Frieze Sculpture Park, London (2014); Sungkok Art Museum, Seoul (2012); Seoul Museum of Art (2005); and National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul (2005). In 2004 he participated in the 5th Gwangju Biennale. He has won a number of awards including Eunkwan Award, Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Korea (2009); Nam June Paik Art Center Prize (2009) and the Grand Prize of International Outdoor Sculpture Festival, Aomori Museum of Art, Japan (1985). His work is included in numerous international public collections including Tate Modern, London; The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney; The Rachofsky Collection, Dallas; Echigo-Tsumari Art Field, Niigata Prefecture, Japan and Seoul Museum of Art.
Top Image: Seung-taek Lee, Untitled, 1967/2018, stainless steel, steel, urethane vinyl, © the artist. Courtesy Gallery Hyundai and White Cube