July 29, 2007

Il Lee ballpoint pen drawings at the Queens Museum

"Il Lee: Ballpoint Drawings," curated by Joanna Kleinberg. The Queens Museum of Art, New York. Through Sept. 30, 2007.

The Queens Museum of Art introduces the work of Il Lee (b. 1952), a Korean-born artist living and working in Brooklyn since 1977. Using disposable ballpoint pens, Lee creates dramatic ink fields on surfaces of canvas and paper. For this exhibition, he will present a selection of large format blue and black ink drawings, including early experimental studies and an impressive fifty-foot installation—his largest work to date. Read the press release.

Benjamin Genocchio in the NYTimes: "His drawings on canvas are meticulously primed with five layers of acrylic mat gel, each layer spread evenly with a knife before he begins to draw. Surface is paramount, with the gel primer preventing the ink from encroaching on the canvas; instead, it pools into a smooth wash on the surface, gradually obliterating the pen strokes. The process is different in the works on paper, which are not treated before he begins to draw. The heavy white paper stock retains an impression of each pen stroke, resulting in an incised, dappled surface texture. And of course the ink seeps into the paper and bonds with it. Sometimes Mr. Lee applies so many pen strokes over weeks and months that the layers of ink become encrusted and gritty....What makes this work so alluring is its unexpected suggestiveness. When Mr. Lee’s drawings conjure before you a soft, densely inked snowflakelike blob with feathery edges, or a pattern that recalls a distant constellation, or foliage, or even stones in a pool of clear, shallow water, it is hard not to be mesmerized. The simple, minimal forms are instinctively seductive." Read more.

In the San Francisco Chronicle, Kenneth Baker reviewed Il Lee's recent show at the San Jose Museum of Art (closed July 7) "I wish I had seen sooner the stirring show of abstractions by Korean-born New York artist Il Lee at the San Jose Museum of Art. More than 20 years ago Lee, now in his mid 50s, began working with one of the few marking tools underrepresented in contemporary art: the ballpoint pen. He moves it at a speed that leaves in the dust its function as a writing tool or even a drawing tool. 'BL-060' (2005) looks like a mountain landscape, a subject deeply rooted in the Asian arts. But in a close view, imagery dissolves and process comes forward." Read more.