Il Lee, BL-1507, 2015, ballpoint ink on canvas, 33 1/2 x 43 inches
I implore you to get to know Il Lee. His shows at the Queens Museum, The Met and San Jose Museum of Art may not have come to your attention. I wrote about his inclusion in a show at the Aldrich entitled Ballpoint (which spawned the recent text Ballpoint Art ) in Atlas 3 years ago.
40 years of his work is currently on view at Art Projects International. The lovingly compiled exhibition highlights a recent body of paintings and drawings on canvas but also reaches back with prints, drawings and paintings beginning with his arrival in New York in the late 70’s. Here you can experience his expressive line; abstraction created over time. The language may exist to explain his beautiful abstraction through the obsessive marking and etching of the surface, but my words are unable to share the weight of these works.
The reason I default on offering a critique is because I am full of passion for these works, so much so that it clouds my eye from having a voice of focused judgement. Il Lee’s fluid mark traces the movement of life and in a more mundane but no less poetic way, the point becoming line in space over time. You do not need to approach them with intellectual rigor, they can simple be. Brice Marden, Lee Ufan and Cy Twombly have been having this conversation for decades.
I find these pieces to be a useful counterpoint to the polished and expressive compositions of Julie Mehretu at Marian Goodman which I explored last week. Il Lee’s mark is singular, a ballpoint pen (sometimes without ink) on paper or canvas. Sometimes it is used to etch a canvas with two painted layers, a dry under layer and a wet surface which acts like a soft ground for an etching, revealing the color beneath. The mark, whether continuous and circuitous or what LeWitt called “Straight Lines in All Directions”, is meditative. It’s consistency is a mantra. Mehretu’s is built of the same abstract language. They exist together in New York for a few more weeks, and in my mind forever. For that I am supremely grateful.
– Jeff Bergman