Lee Ufan and Claude Viallat


Jun 2 – Jul 28, 2023
Exhibition Details:

Lee Ufan and Claude Viallat
Jun 2 – Jul 28, 2023

Opening Jun 2, 10am – 8pm
for London Gallery Weekend


5 Hanover Square


Press Release


(opens in a new window) @pacegallery

Above: Installation view: Lee Ufan and Claude Viallat: Encounter, Jun 2 - Jul 28, 2023, Pace Gallery, London © Lee Ufan and Claude Viallat

Pace Gallery is honoured to present Lee Ufan and Claude Viallat: Encounter, a two-person exhibition organised by the preeminent French curator, Alfred Pacquement.

Spanning more than five decades, this exhibition will survey both artists’ enduring commitment to abstraction as a means of engaging philosophical ideas of time, space, and matter. At the centre of this dialogue, is an exploration of materiality from both a formal and metaphysical perspective. An illustrated exhibition catalogue featuring new texts by the artists and curator will be released by Pace Publishing later in the year.

Both born in 1936, Lee and Viallat have dedicated nearly seven decades to their respective practices and founded major artistic movements: Mono-ha in Japan and Supports/Surfaces in France, respectively. Despite differing geographies and contexts, Lee and Viallat are united by their rejection of traditional methods of art making and their innovative approach to materiality. Comprising painting, sculpture, and installation, Lee’s practice investigates the capacities of action and process as ways of engaging the relationships between the body and temporality. For Viallat, radical rethinking of materials led him to eschew the stretcher in order to treat the canvas as a material object, fundamentally subverting the conventions of painting. Encompassing both new and significant historical works – many of which have never been seen in the UK before – this exhibition is testament to these artists’ boundary breaking practices.

Lee and Viallat first met in Autumn 1971 when they were both included in the Biennale de Paris, an art festival showcasing young artists from around the world. In an interview conducted by Pacquement for the exhibition catalogue, Lee recalls the shock of discovering European and American art groups such as Arte Povera, Supports/Surfaces, and Anti-form: “It was undoubtedly the first time in the history of art that, concurrently, in different geographical locations, analogous tendencies were born.” Lee and Viallat kept in contact over the years, but when Lee opened his eponymous museum in Arles, France in 2022, they rekindled their friendship in earnest.

This exhibition, evocatively titled Encounter, marks the first time they have exhibited in conversation with one another.

Mono-ha, Japanese for ‘The School of Things’, rejected traditional methods and materials of artmaking in favour of the simplicity and inherent power of raw materials. Central to this thinking is the deconstruction of historical traditions and structures in order to rebuild anew. Indeed, Lee has explained his early Relatum sculptures as “a kind of resistance or protest against the institution or the politics of the time.” Born in Korea and having spent most of his life between Japan and France, Lee’s work is inspired by a distinct synthesis of Eastern and Western spiritual practices and beliefs. Considered the theoretician of the group, his celebrated career has been marked by several philosophical texts about contemporary art and culture. Whether it is the stroke of paint against a blank canvas or a natural stone against a cracked glass mirror, at stake in Lee’s work is the activated space between artwork, environment, and viewer. It is through this three-way interchange that Lee conjures ideas of time and space.

Just as Lee’s practice began as a rejection of convention, Viallat’s work is concerned with radically rethinking the nature of painting. Exclusively using found materials such as tarpaulin, rugs, or the fabric from an umbrella, Viallat’s practice is a rebellion against traditional methods of both making and viewing works of art. The Supports/Surfaces group freed painting from its support, reshaping or even removing the frame entirely. Artworks would be hung in unexpected ways – sometimes hanging from the ceiling or outside the gallery space altogether. In doing so, the boundary between artwork and environment is removed and, akin to Lee, the space that surrounds the work is activated, reimagining conditions of viewing.

The repetition of forms is a core facet of both artists’ practices. Lee’s painting series, such as From Line, Correspondance, or Response, vibrate with a visual rhythm as strokes of paint are placed in dialogue with one another. Likewise, throughout his career Viallat has developed a signature motif in which a rectangular form that he likens to the shape of a bone, echoes across the picture plane in a uniform grid. For both artists, the ordered structure of repetition has liberated their practices, allowing space to explore micro variations in the inherent qualities of their materials.


Featured Works

Lee Ufan, Relatum – Things and Words, 1969/2023, canvas, 9' 10-1/8" × 78-3/4" (300 cm × 200 cm), 3 canvases, each
Claude Viallat, 2022/OB018 - Tribute to LEE UFAN, 2022, wood and pebble assemblage, 13-3/4" (34.9 cm), diameter
Claude Viallat, 1975/016, 1975, acrylic on two canvases stitched together, 9' 2-1/4" × 82-11/16" (280 cm × 210 cm)
Lee Ufan, Correspondance, 1992, acrylic on canvas, 89-3/8" × 71-5/8" (227 cm × 181.9 cm)

Installation Views


About the Artists

Lee Ufan portrait

Photo by Claire Dorn © StudioLeeUfan

Lee Ufan

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.

Learn More

Claude-Viallat@P. Schwartz

Photo by P. Schwartz © Claude Viallat

Claude Viallat

A founding member of the Supports/Surfaces movement, Claude Viallat (b. 1936, Nîmes, France) is known for his contributions to the canon of modern painting through his abandonment of the traditional canvas supports, experimentation with texture, repetition, and mastery of color. Viallat studied at the École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Montpellier, France (1955–59). After completing military service in Algeria (1958–61), he attended the École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris (1962–63), where he frequented the studios of Raymond Legueult and Roger Chastel. While at the École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts he was exposed to the work of American abstract artists Kenneth Noland, Morris Louis, and Mark Rothko. After completing his studies in Paris, Viallat leaned into abstraction and began challenging formal elements of painting through experimentation with its support (stretcher) and surface (canvas). In 1964, he began his teaching career at the École des Arts Décoratifs, Nice, eventually transferring to the École des Beaux-arts, Limoges. He later taught in Marseille, then Nîmes, where he became the director before he was nominated as a teacher at Beaux-Arts Paris.

Viallat explores repetition and chance through his practice, investigating the possibilities of extending material into its environment through unstretched surfaces. The serial repetition of his signature form, an organic shape, come across by chance and sometimes likened to a sponge or a bone, allows him to eschew centering his works on one particular subject, instead asking the viewer to focus on the visual character of the work. Viallat prints the form onto unstretched fabric, starting from left to right and then from top to bottom. The apposition of the form corresponds, according to anthropologists, to the neolithic period, and during the late 1970s, his apposition of the form also suggested paleolithic cave paintings. During this process, the material responds to the pigments, producing a unique imprint dependent on the weave, texture, and format of the chosen material. Working with mediums such as acrylic paint, dye, corrosive coloring, and tar, he utilizes the fabrics and pigments he has on hand. Afterwards, he often exposes the fabrics to the elements; sometimes leaving them outside on the ground, hung up like clothes on a laundry line, buried in the soil for several weeks, left in the rain or snow, or burned. This process, paired with incorporating varied textures and materials, such as wood, stone, cork, iron, glass, canvas, upholstery, and tablecloths, allows him to explore new methods of mark-making. In recent years, in an effort to work with new and unexpected materials, Viallat has begun to use materials brought to him from external sources, such as rugs, burlap, handkerchiefs, tents, parasols, and parachutes.

Claude Viallat's work is held in numerous public collections worldwide, including Fondation Cartier, Paris; Kunstmuseum Basel, Switzerland; Musée des Beaux Arts de Montréal, Canada; Musée d’art Modern, Saint-Etienne, France; Musée Fabre, Montpellier; Musée d'art Contemporain de Bordeaux, France; Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris; and the Museum of Modern Art, New York, among others. The artist lives and works in Nîmes, France.