Lee Ufan, Dialogue, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 89-1/2" × 71-1/2" (227.3 cm × 181.6 cm) © 2019 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Lee Ufan

Lee Ufan portrait

Lee Ufan aux Alyscamps, 2021, photo by Claire Dorn
© StudioLeeUfan


b. 1936, Kyongsang-namdo, South Korea


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Lee Ufan is recognized for his unconventional artistic processes which underscore the relationship between the viewer, the artwork, and the spaces they inhabit and for philosophical writings that challenge prevailing notions of artmaking with attention on spatial and temporal conditions.

Lee’s first one-artist exhibition occurred at Sato Gallery, Tokyo, in 1967, and coincided with the publication of The Aesthetics of Self-Contradiction, his critical examination of aesthetics, cultural production, and national identity. His drawings and paintings in the mid-1960s expressed this critique in visual form and were precursors to his From Point and From Line series, which concluded in 1984. Exhibiting a distilled visual language based on an amalgamation of Eastern and Western aesthetics and philosophy, these works emphasize system, structure, and process through fields of dots or lines to create tension between his gestures and the picture plane, while marking the passage of time.


Lee Ufan, Relatum - the cane of titan, 2015, steel and stone, 49" × 10' × 29-1/2" (124.5 cm × 304.8 cm × 74.9 cm), overall installation 39-1/2" × 41-1/2" × 29-1/2" (100.3 cm × 105.4 cm × 74.9 cm), stone 3" × 9' 10-1/4" × 3" (7.6 cm × 300.4 cm × 7.6 cm), steel pole © 2019 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

In 1968, Lee was introduced to artists Nobuo Sekine, Takamatsu Jirō, and Kishio Suga, who, with Lee, formed the Mono-ha—or School of Things—group, with Lee as Mono-ha’s leading theorist and practitioner. The group rejected Western notions of representation and emphasized material, perception, and the interrelationships between space and matter, creating works from raw, natural, and industrial materials with little manipulation. That same year, Lee presented Phenomenon and Perception B at the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, his first site-specific sculptural floor-based work comprised of a heavy stone dropped on a glass plate. He would later retroactively title his three-dimensional works Relatum (1968–) to suggest an individual element within a relation defined by both space and object.


Lee Ufan, From Line, 1979, glue and mineral pigment on canvas, 64" x 51-1/4" (162.6 cm x 130.2 cm) © 2019 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

By the mid-1970s, Lee had been appointed as a Professor at Tama Art University (1973–2007), prompting him to return to painting. During this period, he became a central figure in the Korean monochrome painting school known as Dansaekhwa. Defined by action and process, works from the school were characterized by repetitive minimalist gestures denoting an association between the body and temporality.

From the 1980s onward, Lee developed four additional series of paintings, From Winds (1982–86), With Winds (1987–91), Correspondence (1991–2006), and Dialogue (2006–), all of which explore the dynamic between temporality, gesture, and space. He continued to produce site-specific installations from the Relatum series, presenting monographic exhibitions of his work in museums and galleries across Europe and Japan. In 2008, Pace presented Lee’s first one-artist exhibition in the United States. After having worked with ceramics since the 1970s, Lee began a two-year residency at the Manufacture de Sèvres, France, in 2014, where he produced pieces in terracotta and porcelain. Exploring the idea of chance, collapse, and debris through fired clay, Lee welcomed the chemistry of fire as an unpredictable and autonomous actor in his creative process.

In 2010, the Lee Ufan Museum, dedicated to the artist’s oeuvre, opened on the Japanese island of Naoshima. Lee has published over seventeen books throughout the course of his career, spanning poetry, art history, philosophy, and criticism, including his essay From Object to Being (1969), for which he received a prize for critical writing.


Lee Ufan, From Line, 1983, pigment suspended in glue on canvas, 17-15/16" × 20-7/8" (45.6 cm × 53 cm) © 2019 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


Lee Ufan, Relatum - expansion place, 2008, steel, stone, 10" x 87" x 10-1/2" (25.4 cm x 221 cm x 26.7 cm), 2 steel plates, each 15" x 18" x 16" (38.1 cm x 45.7 cm x 40.6 cm), dark stone 15" x 15" x 12" (38.1 cm x 38.1 cm x 30.5 cm), light stone © 2019 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


Lee Ufan, Relatum - The Arch of Versailles, 2014, stainless steel and two stones, 36' 6-3/16" x 49' 2-9/16" x 6' 6-3/4" (1,113 cm x 1,500 cm x 200 cm), overall installed © 2019 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


Lee Ufan, Dialogue, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 63-3/4" × 51-3/16" (161.9 cm × 130 cm) © 2019 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


Lee Ufan, Dialogue, 2016, acrylic on canvas, 89-3/8" × 71-5/8" (227 cm × 181.9 cm) © 2019 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York