A stone is presented in its natural state and brought infinitely close to the human. A steel plate is presented in its artificial state and brought infinitely close to nature. The work comes together from both sides, and becomes one as its moves toward a third position. At the same time, gaps in the overlapping parts allow the wind of the world to enter.
- Lee Ufan, The Conditions of Sculpture, 1976
Lee Ufan, known as a founder of mono-ha, is a painter, sculptor and philosopher. His art is rooted in an Eastern appreciation of the nature of materials and also in modern European phenomenology. Born in 1936 in Korea, he studied painting at the Seoul National University and moved to Japan, where he earned a degree in philosophy at the Nihon University in 1961. In 1973, he was appointed as a professor of Tama Art University in Tokyo and stayed there until 2007. He lives and works in Japan, Korea and Paris.
Lee Ufan came to prominence as one of the theoretical leaders of the Mono-ha group. The Mono-Ha school of thought rejected the notions of representation, choosing to focus on the relationships of materials and perceptions rather than on expression. Lee's sculptures, presenting dispersed arrangements of stones together with industrial materials like steel plates, rubber sheets, and glass panes, recast the discrete object as a network of relations based on parity between the viewer, materials, and site. Also, by dropping a stone on the glass pane and having cracks on the surface, he visualizes the encounter between human and object. In his painting, Lee creates poetic space by painting skilled brushstrokes in the empty canvas; the encounter between self and other. Corresponding relations between points or lines and the white space generate resonance and infinite depth. His art embraces the world at large and encourages the fluid coexistence of numerous beings, concepts, and experiences.
Lee Ufan participated in Documenta VI (1977) in Kassel, and in 1969 and 1973 he was chosen to represent Korea in the Bienal de Sao Paulo. Major exhibitions of Lee's artworks were held at the Yokohama Museum of Art and the Musée d'art Moderne Saint-Etienne in France in 2005. However, it was Lee’s "Resonance" exhibition at Palazzo Palumbo Fossati in the 2007 Venice Biennale that won critical acclaim and a wider audience. In 2011, Lee Ufan: Marking Infinity was exhibited at the Guggenheim Museum in New York as a second Korean artist after Nam June Paik. In 2014, Lee was the fourth invited artist for the contemporary art program of the Palace of Versailles.