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“Lee Ufan: Marking Infinity.” Leap. October (2011): 192–195.

http://leapleapleap.com/2011/12/lee-ufan-marking-infinity/

LEE UFAN: MARKING INFINITY

Post in: Reviews December 14 2011 | Tag in: LEAP 11 | Reviews Date: 2011.06.24-2011.09.28 | Reviews Venues: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

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Dialogue—space, 2011, acrylic on wall, dimensions vary with installation, installation view, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum New York, 2011

The canonizing ramps of the Guggenheim rotunda played host to this five-decade retrospective of Korean-Japanese artist Lee Ufan (b. 1936), tracing his prolific career in a chronological and thematic upward spiral curated by Alexandra Munroe. Series of gestural, postminimalist paintings punctuated the hike, while sculptures informed by inherent and enlivened “encounters” among things of different materiality blocked the path, causing minor detours that subsequently forced a slight alteration in the viewer’s perspective. And perhaps appropriately: in the dynamic flux of Lee’s philosophy, where works of art function in “resonant relationships with the outside,” the artist does not create so much as mediate a process.

Lee Ufan was the best-known practitioner and prime theoretician of the loosely organized and short-lived (1968-1972) “Mono-ha” (often translated as “School of Things”), a collective for whom the aesthetic notion of “encounter” as a phenomenological event figures prominently. For this exhibition, the now 75-year-old Lee reenacted his Mono-ha period staple Phenomenon (1968), lifting a brawny boulder to crack a thin glass sheet lying atop a commensurately sized steel plate. In this “controlled accident” mediated by Lee, fundamentally different materials—industrial versus natural, taken as they are yet not readymades—exist in a peculiar, dynamic relationship of “things” that extend to include their environs and the audience. Heavily influenced by the phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty, one of Lee’s heroes while studying at Nihon University, Lee’s sculptural oeuvre—retroactively titled Relatum—also vividly evokes elements of Zen, from the spiritual notion of sudden enlightenment, to the topological articulation of Zen garden arrangements. Throughout the ramps and ancillary galleries, assortments of stones rigorously hand-picked by the artist at a Long Island quarry do things. Some meditate by opposing a slanting steel plate; others distort a scaled stripe and by extension its encoded system of measurement, or rest en masse atop soft cushions. Works involving steel plates, flat or elegantly bent, inevitably recall Richard Sera, minus the overwhelming physicality.

The untrammeled qualities of Lee Ufan’s art belie the tumultuous conditions of their making. Mono-ha, for instance, emerged less as a critique of Modernism than a reaction to generations of Japanese artists precipitately in thrall to Western models up to and including the Euro-American avant-garde. It then succeeded as a style and mode of art-making firmly rooted in East Asian philosophy and aesthetics yet internationally relevant. Perhaps this fraught geopolitical standing is appropriate given Lee’s perpetual “otherness” as an individual born in wartime Korea but splitting his life between Tokyo and Paris.

If intricately staged encounters between colliding material realities may not be sensational enough for today’s audiences— accustomed to spectacles like exploding cars hanging from the Guggenheim ceiling—Lee Ufan’s paintings do not fail to grip. In the two series from the 1970s—“From Point” and “From Line,” essentially his childhood training in classic brush techniques writ large—the artist deployed iterative marking of points and lines in graphing time and space. Looking at From Point (1975), one could almost conjure up the artist at work, making consecutive strokes in neat orders rightward with a brush loaded with orange ochre paint symbolic of the earth; when the pigment was exhausted, he would dip the brush and repeat the process. The notion of yohaku, interpreted by Lee as the “the echo that carries into silence,” suggests the limitless dimensions these canvases generate beyond frame. Appreciating from afar, From Point (1975) also works in uncanny resonance with the architectonics of the exhibition space: the points form pulsating lines dashing leftward, the rare example of a work augmented and not overshadowed by Wright’s monumental curves.

In the 1980s, Lee Ufan gradually allowed his brushwork to loosen up a little, populating the canvas with squiggly, calligraphic lines (as in the “With Winds” series) that nevertheless shy away from the splashy, charged fields of an Abstract Expressionist. Only in the innermost gallery at the zenith does the quivering sensation of the extreme minimal suspended at the threshold of spatiotemporal infinitude come alive. In the exhibition’s lone site-specific work Dialogue-Space ( 2009-2011), Lee paints one large, bold grisaille brushstroke directly on the pristine white surface of each of three adjacent walls. Tactile yet eerily supernatural, the three marks appear almost afloat in mid-air, resembling empty stainless-steel utensils. As throughout this self-effacing exhibition, you’d have to empty yourself first in order to resonate. Xin Wang

就将艺术家的作品衬托得光芒四射而言,也许没有任何其他地方比得上弗兰克·劳埃德·赖特设计的圆形古根海姆博物馆。此次韩国艺术家李禹焕(生于1936年)的50年回顾展以时代和主题为线索,沿着博物馆徐徐上升的环形走廊展出了艺术家生涯各个阶段的材料和作品,其中穿插着充满艺术家个性的后极少主义绘画,还有以物质内在的有机联系为灵感的雕塑作品。这些雕塑打破了单一的观展路线,从而使观众略微改变观看的角度。自上世纪60年代以来,李禹焕一直从事观念艺术创作和哲学思考,他的艺术的核心概念是“相遇”—包括艺术品和观众的相遇,艺术作品内部各部分之间的相遇,以及观众与真实场地或想象的无限空间的相遇。这是一个动态而流变的过程,艺术品得以和外部世界产生共鸣。与此同时,艺术家扮演的角色只是一个推动者,而不是创造者。

因为具有现象学的维度,这种“相遇”的美学成为“物派”(代表艺术家包括关根申夫、吉田克朗和李禹焕)艺术的一个重要组成部分。“物派”是一个组织松散的艺术家团体,在艺术史上的意义仍有争议,存在的时间也很短暂(从1968年到1972年),但对战后日本艺术产生了深远的影响。作为“物派”最著名的成员和理论家,李禹焕再次表演了当时的代表作《现象》(1968年)。在这个行为表演中,75岁高龄的艺术家举起一块大石头砸碎放在钢板上的一层薄玻璃片。在这种“受控事件”中,截然不同的材料—艺术家直接使用工业和自然的材料,但并不将其作为现成物—形成一种特殊而动态的“物”的关系,进而向周围环境和观众辐射。莫里斯·梅洛-庞蒂对李禹焕的影响颇深,他是后者在日本大学求学时期最崇拜的哲学家之一。李禹焕的雕塑作品—重新被命名为《被动关系》—也明显地借用了禅、顿悟以及禅园的元素。这些作品陈列在展厅螺旋上升的走廊和各个展室中,形式多样:有的石头—都是由艺术家从长岛的一个采石场亲手挑选而来—被置于弯曲的钢板对面,仿佛在沉思;有的钢板被弯曲,上面的刻度随之改变;有的石头则被置于软垫上。这些作品对钢板—或平板或弯曲—的使用不可避免地让人想起理查德·塞拉的作品,尽管两者在尺度上差异巨大。

李禹焕作品的酣畅淋漓衬托出其创作年代的喧嚣混乱。比如,“物派”的出现,并非完全旨在批判现代主义艺术,而更多是出于对当时日本艺术界的反叛。当时的日本艺术家受到西方艺术模式的影响,欧美最早的艺术到最新的前卫主义艺术都被作为借鉴的对象。尽管仍然具有国际性,这种模式或风格却深深地根植在东亚哲学和美学体系中。后“物派”时代的艺术家猛烈地抨击这种艺术,但正是这种艺术驱使这些艺术家“发现自己的艺术道路”。对李禹焕艺术的方法论产生了影响的还有另一个背景因素,也就是无处不在的身份危机。李禹焕在整个艺术生涯中始终感到自己是“局外人”—他生于战争期间的韩国,随后的大部分时间在东京和巴黎度过。

在如今教育程度越来越高(有时甚至高得过分)的观众面前,这种艺术中冲突的物质现实失去了当年的轰动效应。相较而言,李禹焕的绘画则具有更大的视觉吸引力。在创作于上世纪70年代的绘画系列“点”和“线”中,能够明显看到艺术家小时所受书法训练的影响—艺术家用重复的点和线来描绘时间和空间。在《点》(1975年)面前,观众可以想象李禹焕作画时,如何用蘸着橙赭色—象征地球—颜料的画笔,工整地从左向右画出一道道连续的笔触。当笔上颜料用尽,艺术家又蘸上颜料重复这个过程。在这些绘画中,他将“余白”的观念诠释为“一种带来静寂的回响”,也即由绘画所产生的,超出画布物理局限的无限维度。从远处欣赏,《点》和博物馆空间的建筑构造形成了某种奇特的呼应关系:无数的点形成悦动的线条,快速地向左移动。但总的来说,博物馆流畅而巨大的空间大大地消解了艺术品的张力。

到了上世纪80年代,李禹焕的笔触逐渐松动,画面上充满弯曲和书法般的线条(见“风”系列),但他仍然和抽象表现主义那激情挥洒的风格保持着距离。只有在博物馆最顶层的空间中,观众才能真切体会到他作品的极少主义风格带来的震撼感受,仿佛被悬置于无限时空的临界点上。展览中唯一为博物馆空间量身定做的作品是《对话—空间》(2009年至2011年)。在相邻的三面白墙上,艺术家画出一个巨大的,浅浮雕似的笔触(连在一起,就像一道一气呵成的醒目笔触)。这个笔触很有质感,却又神秘而超自然,仿佛飘浮在半空中,有点像空的一个不锈钢容器。整个展览氛围谦怀,只有在一种空灵的心态之中,观众才能真正有所体悟。王辛(由陈旷地翻译)

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