IL LEE: Etchings 2011-2019

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IL LEE: Etchings 2011-2019

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Art Projects Internationalis pleased to present a survey of limited-edition etching prints by Il Lee. The online exhibition features works selected from Lee’s two series of etching prints — Four Seasons and Greenpoint — created from 2011 to 2019. The exhibition is the first time these etching prints are seen together as a group and includes the never before released editions Banker and India from the Greenpoint series. Simultaneously, during December and January 2023, the gallery will present an installation of several framed limited-edition etching prints for visitors to the gallery. The exhibition also celebrates the recent publication IL LEE: Etchings — a compilation of etching prints from both the Greenpoint and Four Seasons series.

The Four Season series of prints, with bright greens and blues and rich oranges and reds, have been created in discrete sets of themes which build on diverse explorations of mark-making. As his large scale works on canvas and on paper suggest at once the monumental and the fundamental dynamism of nature, these prints convey scale and movement beyond the possibilities their modest formats suggest.

In the Hanro (Fall) edition, etched lines twist around an area of form created by a dense intersection of those same lines. Some lines corkscrew in or out of view; others seem to halt and turn back on themselves. Lee allows, in all these etchings, for his lines to have different levels of energy—to develop their own personalities. In the Sosul (Winter) edition, Lee uses a brushstroke effect to bring attention to series of parallel lines creating the effect; Lee trades the massing of infinite line he often uses to build massive form for abbreviated strokes that generate a meditation on process, mark making and composition. In the Gogu (Spring) editions, short brushy stubs and grass-like protrusions or bush-like swirls bring abstractions in, not outright but somewhat close, association with nature. In some editions, Lee’s line is given free reign; it might consume the entire surface, explode from a corner, drop from the sky or rise like smoke. The energy of other prints is evocative of Lee’s earlier ballpoint pen work.

Named after the streets of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, Lee’s Greenpoint series of limited-edition etching prints are evocative of his most recent ballpoint works that depart from his seemingly endless flowing lines. This focus on the etching process allows Lee to extend his lexicon of mark-making and through this experimentation and exploration, Lee has recently been altering the character of his well known, form giving, energetically looping line. In works like Banker, Leonard, and Franklin, the lines that overlap to create form are straight and of discrete lengths. In other works like Wind, forms flow freely off the edge as if they could continue forever.

IL Lee
Eagle, 2014
Etching on paper
28 x 21 in; 71.1 x 53.3 cm
Edition of 20

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Lee studied painting in the 1960s and 1970s in Seoul before moving to New York in 1977, earning an MFA in painting at Pratt Institute. He studied printmaking at Pratt Graphics Center soon after he arrived in New York and his early print works were exhibited in numerous print exhibitions and biennales including the 7th British International Print Biennale at Cartwright Hall Gallery (Bradford, UK) in 1982; Korean Contemporary Prints Now-Then at Ho-Am Museum (Seoul, Korea) in 1985; and 40 Years of Korean Contemporary Printmaking, National Museum of Contemporary and Modern Art (Seoul, Korea) in 1993. His recent focus on the etching process brings Lee back to a practice that was his initial course of study decades ago. In 2011, Art Projects International presented his Four Seasons etching prints and four monoprints presented in this exhibition were acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, for its permanent collection.

IL LEE (b. 1952 Seoul, Korea. Lives and works in New York) is internationally celebrated for his pioneering work with ballpoint pen and a storied career spanning nearly five decades. In his recent acrylic and oil works on canvas, Lee offers a counterpoint to his well-known ballpoint pen work and continues his early investigations of materials and process that began decades ago. Work by Il Lee is represented in prominent collections, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia), Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), San Jose Museum of Art, Palm Springs Art Museum, Vilcek Foundation, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Korea, Leeum Samsung Museum of Art (Seoul), Société Bic (France), Montefiore Fine Art Collection and Bank of America among others.

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