Lee Kun-Yong

Snail’s Gallop

Jul 14 – Aug 18, 2023
New York
Exhibition Details:

Lee Kun-Yong
Snail's Gallop
Jul 14 – Aug 18, 2023


540 West 25th Street
New York


Press Release


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Above: Installation view, Lee Kun-Yong: Snail's Gallop, Jul 14 – Aug 18, 2023, Pace Gallery, New York © Lee Kun-Yong

Pace is pleased to present an exhibition of work by Lee Kun-Yong at its 540 West 25th Street gallery in New York.

This presentation, titled Snail’s Gallop and on view from July 14 to August 19, will bring together large-scale paintings and a performance work by the artist, along with archival materials from his storied career. The show will mark Lee’s first-ever solo exhibition in New York as well as his debut solo show at Pace’s flagship gallery.

Lee, who joined Pace’s program in 2022, rose to prominence as a leading figure of the Korean avant-garde movement during the 1970s, a period in which the country grappled with authoritarianism and restrictions on freedom of expression. He was a founding member of the artist group Space and Time, and he is widely regarded as a pioneer of performance art in Korea. Best known for his inventive and influential performances, Lee has cultivated a practice that also includes painting, sculpture, installation, and video—mediums that often complement his live interventions.

The artist’s first solo presentation in New York will span two floors of Pace’s gallery. On the second floor, Lee will show a selection of new large-scale paintings from his iconic Bodyscape series, which he began in 1976. For these works, Lee approaches canvases from nine distinct angles, creating records of his physical relationships to this two-dimensional medium. Lee’s experimentations of this kind yield bold abstractions that document his body’s movements. As with many of Lee’s other works, Bodyscape explores the ways that performance can be immortalized through physical traces left in paint or other materials. The artist is known for sustaining his performances, like Bodyscape, over the course of many years of his career.

On Pace’s seventh floor, Lee will stage a one-off performance of Snail’s Gallop, which he debuted in 1979 at Namgye Gallery in Daejeon, Korea and later staged at the 15th Bienal de São Paulo that same year. Presented by Pace Live—the gallery’s multidisciplinary platform for live art performances, musical acts, conversations, and other events—Snail’s Gallop is an act of both creation and obliteration. In this work, the artist carefully and methodically traces his journey across a given space, drawing lines to mark his body’s positions and movements. After Lee draws a line, he crosses it in a shuffling motion, erasing part of his mark in the process. At Pace, Lee will perform Snail’s Gallop atop a 10 x 1.2-meter sized vinyl sheet, which will remain on view in the gallery for the duration of the exhibition. This work reflects a central element of Lee’s performances—communication with the viewer. He continually explores this idea of exchange with each of the different audiences present for his performances of Snail’s Gallop, extending the life of the work beyond its first enactment some 45 years ago.

Lee’s live performance of Snail’s Gallop will take place on Thursday, July 13 at 5:30 p.m. EDT, ahead of the opening reception for the artist’s exhibition, which will run from 6–8 p.m. EDT that evening. Further details about the event will be revealed in the coming weeks.

Archival films and photographs from Lee’s past performances will be exhibited alongside Snail’s Gallop on Pace’s seventh floor. For Lee, these photographs play an integral role in his practice—just as his Bodyscapes are immortalized through painting, his photographs are essentially relics of his performances. Original sketches will also be on view, and ephemera related to his exhibitions in the 1970s and 1980s will be displayed in a vitrine in this space.

Lee’s new Bodyscape paintings featured in his solo exhibition with Pace in New York can be understood in conversation with the historical works he will present in the group exhibition Only the Young: Experimental Art in Korea, 1960s–1970s, which is co-organized by the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Korea and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. Following its run in Korea from May 26 to July 16, this landmark presentation will travel to the Guggenheim Museum in New York—where it will be on view from September 1 to January 7, 2024—and then to the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. Only the Young: Experimental Art in Korea, 1960s–1970s will be the first survey highlighting the Korean avant-garde movement to be presented in North America.


Featured Works

Lee Kun-Yong, The Method of Drawing, 1976 / 2023, c-print, 100 cm × 66.7 cm (39-3/8" × 26-1/4"), each image 102.6 cm × 69.3 cm × 4 cm (40-3/8" × 27-5/16" × 1-9/16"), each frame
Lee Kun-Yong, Bodyscape 76-3-2023, 2023, acrylic on canvas, 116.8 cm × 91 cm (46" × 35-13/16")
Lee Kun-Yong, Bodyscape 76-1-2023, 2023, acrylic on canvas, 171 cm × 150 cm × 4 cm (67-5/16" × 59-1/16" × 1-9/16")
Lee Kun-Yong, Bodyscape 76-2-2023, 2023, acrylic on canvas, 182 cm × 227 cm × 4.1 cm (71-5/8" × 89-3/8" × 1-5/8")

Installation Views


About the Artist

Lee Kun-Yong is known for his performances that reimagine the ways that the body and its movements can be understood across time. The artist cultivated his highly experimental practice during the 1970s, when martial law and authoritarianism presented a major affront to civil rights and freedom of expression in South Korea.

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