'PURE CLAY'

reviews: new york, RH GALLERY

ARTnews, October 2011

(c) copyright 2011 ARTnews LLC

When the avant- garde artist Lee Ufan met ceramicist Young Sook Park at her stu- dio in 1979 in Seoul, he offered to mentor her, initiating a series of fruitful collabora- tions between the two Korean artists. This elegant show spotlighted a small selection of objects that the two pro- duced together, as well as several paint- ings by Lee Ufan and ceramics made by Young Sook Park.

Young Sook Park’s “Moon Jars” were particularly striking—their perfectly smooth white surfaces and sense of bal- ance demonstrate her discipline and pa- tience with the clay. This kind of ceramic art dates back to the Chosun Dynasty. The Moon Jar, traditionally celebrated for the harmony it achieves between mouth, body, and base, is difficult to per- fect, since the vessel’s upper section is much larger than its lower one, making it vulnerable to collapse during firing.

In their collaborative works, Lee Ufan’s marks adorn the surfaces of Young Sook Park’s porcelain, earthenware, and terra- cotta objects. A large plate from 1988, for example, features his brushwork as applied in oxidized iron and a fern-ash glaze. More than decoration, his gestural, rhythmic strokes respond to her process of forming the clay. He dissolves the dis- tinction between surface and object.

In Lee Ufan’s monochrome paintings shown here, the gestural brushstrokes repeat, yielding patterns that draw atten- tion to the tension between surface and ground. The vertical strokes of the oil on canvas With Wind (1990) are meant to echo gentle bursts of wind. The ethereal nature of such works was wonderfully offset by the highly tactile qualities of the ceramic pieces, seen in two slabs of unglazed terra-cotta (2005–7), made col- laboratively, whose smooth surfaces were interrupted with satisfying gouge marks. —Meredith Mendelsohn