The EAC-Castelló is presenting the recent work of Lee Bul, a Korean artist whose work walks on the thin line that separates sculpture, installations and live performance, frequently exploring the boundaries between history and idealism, questioning utopia and status quo.
The retrospective now showing in the Contemporary arts centre of Castellón (Valencia, Spain) closes the five-stop journey started by this itinerant exhibition in Seoul, followed by several shows in Luxemburg, Birmingham, London and Saint-Étienne Métropole.
Widely viewed as one of the most important Korean artists of her generation, Lee Bul’s works (1964, Korea) are concerned with politics in the broadest sense, delving into many variants of the fallible forms of idealism in culture and civilisation. Her work draws on various intellectual mechanisms ranging from gender politics, idealism, modernism, science fiction and technological development.
Lee Bul’s more recent works have similarly dual concerns; at once forward-looking yet retrospective, seductive but suggestive of ruin. The sculptures reflect utopian architectural schemes of the early twentieth century as well as images of totalitarianism from Lee Bul’s early experiences of the Korea military dictatorship. Good examples are After Bruno Taut (Beware the Sweetness of Things), 2007 and Untitled (“reflective highway”), 2010.
The exhibition at EACC features some of her sculptural output in which she explores what she sees as the failings of utopian optimism, generating forms more proper to a beautiful imaginary future she knows to be impossible, with works like Bunker (M. Bakhtin), 2007/2012, Via Negativa, 2012 and Souterrain, 2012.
Perhaps the most explicit of her works is Mon grand récit: Weep into stones… (2005), whose mountainous topography is reminiscent of skyscrapers described by Hugh Ferriss in his book The Metropolis of Tomorrow (1929). A nearby transmission tower broadcasts a flashing LED message from Thomas Browne’s Hydriotaphia (1658), scaffolding supports several scale model structures: a looping highway made of bent plywood, a tiny Tatlin’s Monument, a modernist staircase that features in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, and an upturned cross-section of the Hagia Sophia.
The exhibition is accompanied by a major publication (available here), and is supported by the Korean Foundation, Lehmann Maupin, Galerie Thaddeaus Ropac and PKM Gallery. It will be open until September 27, 2015.
12 June / 27 September
Espai d’Art Contemporani de Castelló
c/ Prim, s/n
12003 Castellón de la Plana
Exhibition information via EAC·Castelló.
Exhibition images courtesy of IKON Gallery, unless quoted otherwise.