Lee Ufan at Dia:Beacon, Beacon, NY
Opens May 5, 2019
A pioneer of the Mono-ha movement in Japan, Lee Ufan developed a sculptural practice in the 1960s that explored the tension between natural and man-made materials and the dialogue between object and space. In 1972 he changed the titles of the works that he had made up to that point to Relatum, referring to a concept in Heideggerian philosophy, which conveyed the artist's interest in contingent circumstances. His use of "Relatum" can be compared to the frequent use of "untitled" by American Minimal artists.
The exhibition at Dia:Beacon, resulting from close collaboration with the artist, will showcase Dia's 2017 acquisition of three sculptural works by Lee, Relatum (formerly System, 1969), Relatum (formerly Language, 1971), and Relatum (1974) -- alongside several important loans. Relatum (formerly System, 1969), one of Lee's earliest Mono-ha sculptures, is composed of six steel plates that are bent at ninety-degree angles and positioned evocatively in relationship to the gallery's architecture. Relatum (formerly Language, 1971) juxtaposes two diametrically opposite materials, pairing seven thick, soft cushions with large boulders. In Relatum (1974), a long wooden beam is suspended above a steel plate by a thick length of rope in a seemingly precarious arrangement that captures the interconnectedness of various materials; a defining principle of Mono-ha.
Dia:Beacon Honors Lee Ufan
At the Annual Spring Benefit
May 4, 2019
Lee Ufan was born in Kyongsang-namdo, Korea, in 1936. In 1958 he moved to Tokyo, where he studied philosophy at Nihon University. He had his first solo show of paintings in 1967. In 1968 Lee participated in the exhibition Contemporary Korean Painting at the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo with a triptych of spray-painted canvases in neon colors. In 1969 he participated in 9th Contemporary Art Exhibition of Japan with an ephemeral happening that departed from his earlier optical, discrete objects toward contingent structures. This show brought together artists henceforth identified with Mono-ha (School of Things), a derogatory title given by reviewers in response to the artists' arrangements of commonplace materials. A prolific cultural critic, Lee published the first of several collections of writings in 1971.
In the early 1970s, Lee participated in several exhibitions that juxtaposed American, East Asian, and European artists to highlight their shared concern with materials, processes, and sites, including the Paris Biennial (1971), Japan: Tradition und Gegenwart at Kunsthalle Düsseldorf (1974), and Z.B. Skulptur at Städelsches Kunstinstitut in Frankfurt (1978) alongside Joseph Beuys and Richard Serra, among others.
In the 1980s Lee participated in group exhibitions at Centre Pompidou in Paris (1986), Seibu Museum of Art in Tokyo (1987), and a two-person retrospective at Padiglione d'Arte Contemporanea in Milan (1988). In 1997 his retrospective exhibition at Jeu de Paume, Paris, continued into a teaching appointment at the Paris Académie des Beaux Arts, and was followed by solo shows at Städelsches Kunstinstitut in Frankfurt (1998) and at Museum Ludwig, Cologne (1999). In recent years, acclaim for Lee's work has brought him exhibitions worldwide, including solo exhibitions at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2011), the Chateau de Versailles, Paris (2014), and at the Serpentine Galleries, London (2018), among others. In 2010 the Lee Ufan Museum, designed by Tadao Ando, opened in Naoshima, Japan. Increasingly distilled and monumental, his sculptures continue to juxtapose natural stones and manmade metal plates according to the Lee's relational philosophy. Lee lives and works in Kamakura, Japan, and Paris.