Lee Ufan opens major commission for the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington DC
30 September 2019Lee Ufan: Open Dimension is an ambitious site-specific commission by the celebrated Korean artist Lee Ufan. The expansive installation, featuring 10 new sculptures from the artist’s signature and continuing Relatum series, marks Lee Ufan’s largest single outdoor sculpture project in the US, the first exhibition of his work in the nation’s capital, and the first time in the Hirshhorn’s 45-year history that its 4.3-acre outdoor plaza has been devoted, almost in its entirety, to the work of a single artist.
Each of Lee’s sculptures responds to the Museum’s unique architecture and continues his practice of placing contrasting materials, such as stainless steel plates and boulders, in dialogue with each other to heighten awareness of the world, in his words, “exactly as it is.” Leaving the materials mostly unaltered, Lee arranges them with careful attention to the subtle nuances of the site to foreground the visitor’s encounter with the art as it unfolds in time and space. The Hirshhorn’s cylindrical building amplifies the experience by offering myriad viewpoints from which visitors can contemplate the works. The title Relatum, which Lee gives to all his sculptures, reflects his vision of art as an opportunity to experience an “open dimension,” a space in which we can consider the relationships among humans, things made by humans, and the broader natural world.
Lee rose to prominence as part of an influential movement—Mono-ha (or “school of things”)—of young artists working in Japan in the late 1960s and 1970s. Lee, the movement’s main theoretician, explains the method of Mono-ha as one not of making but of mediating, attempting to create art that reveals the world as it is. His work in later decades has evolved into a thoughtful, highly refined practice in which he generates complex artistic situations with the barest of means. “By limiting one’s self to the minimum,” he writes, “one allows the maximum interaction with the world.”
A complementary installation of the artist’s abstract Dialogue paintings is on view in the Museum’s third-floor galleries from September 2019 to March 2020.
Lee Ufan: Open Dimension continues through September 2020. For more information visit www.hirshhorn.si.edu
Image: Lee Ufan surveys a Long Island quarry for the materials for his installation at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC. Photo: Oresti Tsonopoulos / Courtesy of Lee Ufan and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden