Lee Bul: Korea’s Dazzling Art Star Reinvisions the Heavens and Earth

On Lee Bul:

“Starting out in the late 1980s, Korean artist Lee has witnessed some big changes within the global art scene. She was one of the first women artists from Asia to exhibit in major international art museums during the Asian art boom of the ’90s — a time when many Asian art biennales were being launched, and exhibitions focusing on Asian artists were still quite rare in Western art museums.”

“In the 1990s, the label ‘Asian Woman Artist’ was a term that caused me a lot of grief, actually,” says Lee at an interview during her recent visit to Tokyo for an artist talk.”

“Despite her upbringing in a very political family, Lee has never personally identified with South Korea’s late-coming feminist movement. “I don’t believe in any ‘isms’ ” she says. But she is an artist who constantly questions political ideals. Specifically, she questions what she sees as civilization’s chronic belief in utopianism.”

“Lee Bul seems to be famous for all the wrong reasons. The major Korean contemporary artist, who has a retrospective at the Mori Art Museum, had her first big break in 1997 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, when an artwork she was exhibiting, containing dead fish, literally started stinking and forced the exhibition to be shut down. The controversy this caused led her to get noticed by the wider art world. Yes, once again, as with Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ, Chris Ofili’s elephant dung paintings, or Damian Hirst’s pickled animals, a contemporary artist gained fame by doing something repulsive to normal people.”

“Lee Bul address the dualism between a highly traditional society and tremendous technological advances.”

“Lee Bul explores through her pieces trends in popular culture, themes of feminine identity, and representation of femininity interpreted in a science fiction fantasy key, such as her “Cyborgs” pieces, a series of coloured smooth silicone sexualised armours with female shapes but with several limbs.” missing, aimed at analysing the relationship between woman and machine.”

“Lee’s artworks seemingly display a fascination with dichotomies such as art and bioengineering, utopia and dystopia, virtual reality and investigations of contemporary forms of popular entertainment.”

“Do you feel that Lee Bul’s production somehow reflects her home country progression from military dictatorship to democracy?”

“KM: Social and political history of the environment where she grew up is obviously reflected in her practice and in all details in the most subtle or allegorical ways.”

“There are three buildings in the Lees’ compound. Their home is a modernist structure of heavy cantilevered concrete slabs, its brutalism also its appeal. Lee’s husband James explains that it was built many decades earlier by a pioneering arts patron who decided not to reside there.”

“Bul was born in 1964 in a remote South Korean village where her dissident parents were in hiding from the oppressive government. Something of a renegade in the Korean artworld, she made her mark in the late 1980s through outlandish street performances. Her first sculptures were designed to be worn: covered in freakish protrusions and decked in sequins, they suggested a metamorphosis that was both grotesque and sensual. In the late 1990s her sci-fi inspired, mutant cyber-women, with missing heads and limbs like the female torsos of Renaissance sculpture, established Bul’s international reputation. As with the cyberpunk novels of William Gibson, her work pointed to a terrifying future where technology is less freeing than debilitating.”

excerpts culled from online sources in the style of Walter Benjamin’s writing project of compiling and excerpting the texts of others and making new statements via those writings –  by Vincent Johnson in Los Angeles.

http://www.vincentjohnsonart.com

Lee Bul

AFTER BRUNO TAUT [BEWARE THE SWEETNESS OF THINGS], 2007 / PHOTOGRAPHY BY PATRICK GRIES / COURTESY FOUNDATION CARTIER, PARIS

untitled 5, 2009 / photography choi jae-woo / courtesy bartleby bickle & meursault

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ZOOT magazine

AFTER BRUNO TAUT [BEWARE THE SWEETNESS OF THINGS], 2007 / PHOTOGRAPHY BY PATRICK GRIES / COURTESY FOUNDATION CARTIER, PARIS
untitled 5, 2009 / photography choi jae-woo / courtesy bartleby bickle & meursault EE BUL: FROM ME, BELONGS TO YOU ONLY

Lee Bul, After Bruno Taut (Beware the sweetness of things) (detail), 2007, Photo: Patrick GriesPhoto, Courtesy: Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris

Lee Bul, Cravings, 1989, Outdoor performance, Jangheung, Korea, Photo courtesy: Studio Lee Bul

L

Lee Bul, Majestic Splendor (detail), 1997, Photo: Robert Puglisi, Photo courtesy: Studio Lee Bul

“Lee Bul: From Me, Belongs to You Only” Installation view, Photo: Watanabe Osamu, Photo courtesy: Mori Art Museum

Cyborg Red, Cyborg Blue, 1997–98, Photo: Watanabe Osamu, Photo courtesy: Mori Art Museum

Lee Bul, Amaryllis, 1999, Photo: Rhee Jae-yong, Photo courtesy: Studio Lee Bul

Lee Bul: From Me, Belongs to You Only” Installation view, Photo: Watanabe Osamu, Photo courtesy: Mori Art Museum

Lee Bul, The Secret Sharer, 2012, Photo: Watanabe Osamu, Photo courtesy: Mori Art Museum

Lee Bul in her studio. Photo by HG Masters for ArtAsiaPacific.

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News & Features
Art
Lee Bul
The Mori shows the feminism and femininity of the avant-garde Korean artist

Lee Bul's Stembau No3 - The New Decor

Lee Bul’sStembauNo3, on display at the Hayward’s exhibition The New Decor. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guard===

Lee Bul
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SCAI the Bathhouse Kashiwa-yu Ato, 6-1-23 Yanaka, Taito-ku Tel: 03.3821.1144 12:00 – 19:00 Closed Sun & Mon. through December 8

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“The Studio” by Lee Bul is on display at the Artsonje Center, downtown Seoul through Nov. 4.
Courtesy of Artsonje Center

In one corner of “The Studio” are 29 abject maquettes of various medium and color. Laid out in rows, they provide evidence of the work that went into creating “Secret Sharer,” Lee’s recent crystal-and-mirror sculpture of a dog in mid-vomit that is based on the artist’s own pet.

Lbmon-grand_1000

MON GRAND RÉCIT: WEEP INTO STONES…, 2005, polyurethane, foamex, synthetic clay, stainless-steel, aluminum rods, acrylic panels, wood sheets, acrylic paint, varnish, electrical wire and lighting, 280 × 440 × 300 cm. Courtesy the artist.

MON GRAND RÉCIT: BECAUSE EVERYTHING…, 2005, wood, paint, glass crystals, synthetic beads, aluminium, foam, polystyrene, fibreglass, epoxy resin and lights, 230 × 250 × 500 cm. Courtesy the artist and Kukje Gallery, Seoul.

16_leebul_1000

THAW (TAKAKI MASAO), 2007, fiberglass, acrylic paint, black crystal and glass beads on nickel-chrome wire, sculpture: 93 × 212 × 113 cm, trail of beads: 250–500 cm long. Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Salzburg/Paris.

Installation view of AUTOPOIESIS (2006) and STERNBAU NO. 2 (2007) at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Salzburg, 2007.
  • Lee Bul made more than 50 maquettes before deciding on the composition of 'The Secret Sharer' (above), a sculpture of crystals and mirrors, modeled on the artist's dog.

Lee Bul made more than 50 maquettes before deciding on the composition of ‘The Secret Sharer’ (above), a sculpture of crystals and mirrors, modeled on the artist’s dog. | COURTESY OF MORI ART MUSEUM

Lee Bul | WATANABE OSAMU PHOTO Lee Bul made more than 50 maquettes before deciding on the composition of 'The Secret Sharer' (above), a sculpture of crystals and mirrors, modeled on the artist's dog. | COURTESY OF MORI ART MUSEUM
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Lee Bul: Phantasmic Morphologies
by Michaël Amy


Who we are is determined to a considerable extent by what we are. The what includes our origins in time and place, gender, race, social status, sexual orientation, education, and political and religious convictions. Once we have this information, we believe that we know enough about a person to be able to classify and judge him or her. We have a tendency to embrace stereotypical thinking.

The South Korean artist Lee Bul moves away from what we know—or what we think we know. Her work examines how the mind functions by exploring some of its dreams, ideals, and utopias. Interviews with Lee over the years have shown her to be a highly sophisticated and articulate thinker, with a wide range of interests in the history of ideas, the cultures of both East and West, and science and technology. Her work argues that everything is in a state of flux, that many of the notions we accept as laws are often the product of bias and can—therefore—be corrected, and that the imagination constitutes an all-conquering power. Surrealism is an important source for Lee’s ideas and images. She understands imagination’s ties to cognition and knows from firsthand experience how it can free one from physical and ideological bonds, thus becoming of critical importance to survival.

Thaw, 2007.
Fiberglass, resin, acrylic paint, black crystals, and mixed media, 93 x 113 x 212 cm.

Photo: Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin Gallery, NY.

LEE BUL, Untitled sculpture W4-2, 2010. Stainless steel, aluminum,mirror, wood, polyurethane sheet, acrylic mirror, glass beads, 218 x113 x 87 cm. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York.
LEE BUL
Yulia Tikhonova
Reviews
LEHMANN MAUPIN – NEW YORK In her past spring exhibition Lee Bul departed from previously opulent chandelierlike sculptural structures. This time the artist manufactured metal and other materials into intricate hard-edged constructions. Twelve sculptures were constructed from pieces of mirror, wood and plexiglass, harnessed by a mesh of stainless steel and aluminum. Drawings of the structures were also on display.
LEE BUL, Untitled sculpture W4-2, 2010. Stainless steel, aluminum,mirror, wood, polyurethane sheet, acrylic mirror, glass beads, 218 x113 x 87 cm. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York.
Although a 28th edition of her crystal and glitter sculpture Sternbau No.28 (2010) included in the show is familiar to anyone who has seen Bul’s works before, this exhibition looks different.Untitled W2-1 (2010) is an intense configuration of the sharp angles formed by reflecting surfaces. Its pointy side extensions covered with metal resemble menacing fuselages and shields. When suspended from the ceiling this structure seems to be ready for attack like a missile boat from a Star Wars game. The other nine editions of Untitled W are rigidly welded together with horizontal and tangential metal rods. They hover in the gallery space, erratic andaimlessly dangerous. These large assemblages are manufactured by as many as five people at Bul’s workshop. They are produced in bulk, with each piece different and yet a variation of another. Their cold aesthetic doesn’t sparkle rapport, but their crafty appearance suggests high-cost fabrication to meet high-end retail prices. Her earlier works from the ’90s were elaborate human-scale silicone sculptures resembling space-fad cyborgs, derived from the ideas of feminism. Korean-born, Bul’s more recent works have been noted for their architectural motifs drawn from the avant-garde language of Vladimir Tatlin’s Tower or Bruno Taut’s glass domes. Less visionary, this exhibition seems more concerned with introducing references of danger and anxiety. In one of her recent interviews, the artist commented about pressure to produce better works: “Pressure is a part of my life. It’s killing my body, I’m getting sick.” Working on her upcoming retrospective at the Mori Art Museum next year, Bul might recognize that less is more.
Flash Art 274 OCTOBER 2010
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2010-02-05 18:00

Lee Bul Pioneers Korean Contemporary Art


Lee Bul, widely considered as the leading Korean artist of her generation, talks to The Korea Times at the Bartleby Bickle & Meursault office, downtown Seoul, Friday. / Korea Times

By Cathy Rose A. Garcia
Staff Reporter

World-renowned artist Lee Bul, whose cyborg sculptures and decomposing fish installations made her a name to be reckoned with on the international art scene, offers an interesting piece of advice to aspiring artists: “Don’t ‘try’ to be an artist.”

“Becoming an artist is not possible from trying. If somebody tries ‘not’ to be an artist, the person will have a greater possibility of becoming an artist,” the 46-year-old Lee told The Korea Times, in an interview at the Bartleby Bickle & Meursault office, downtown Seoul, Friday.

Based on her own experience, Lee certainly did not “try” instead simply “is” an artist.

She was born in 1964 in a secluded Korean village where her dissident parents were hiding from the government. Growing up during the turbulent ’70s and ’80s, Lee majored in sculpture and graduated from Hongik University in 1987.

“I don’t remember ‘beginning’ as an artist. It’s too far back for me to remember. Sometimes I think about what an artist is. I have a childhood memory that I wanted to be an artist, but every artist is probably the same. Maybe I was an artist when I was born,” she said.

The following year, Lee became a finalist for the prestigious Hugo Boss prize at the Guggenheim Museum, and in 1999 she received an honorable mention at the 48th Venice Biennale.

Futuristic as her works may be, Lee constantly finds ideas from “everywhere and from life, not just mine.” The process of creating her art is simple: she gets an idea, writes it down, puts it on a wall and lets it stay there until one day she feels like expounding on it.

“Almost every day, I take notes and drawings of my ideas, even small ideas because sometimes I forget them. I put these pieces of paper on the wall. Every day, I pass these drawings. Some days, I suddenly want to develop an idea. After that I draw and make notes again. This is the usual process. I am not focused on one piece from start to finish because I have too many things ongoing,” she said.

cathy@koreatimes.co.kr

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