Transcending borders in art Apr 26 2013
Ryan Lee Gallery in New York aims to introduce dynamic roster of international contemporary artists starting with Im Sangbin

“Subway 3,” by Im Sangbin. (Ryan Lee Gallery)

Labeling art or artists with a national identity doesn’t hold much significance when geographical and national borders are being blurred in the international art world.

Chinese artists had been long associated with satire and social critique, as Japanese artists had with manga. But many international artists are now receiving attention for their creative artistic practice, rather than for their country or styles associated with it.

Ryan Lee Gallery, a new contemporary art gallery in New York, invited Korean artist Im Sangbin for its inaugural exhibition starting Friday in a bid to introduce a diverse range of international artists who stand out by virtue of their own individual practice rather than where they come from.

“He is an artist who has had worldly experience, born in one country, studied in another and traveled the world for inspiration and such for ‘international spaces,” said Jeff Lee, cohead of Ryan Lee Gallery in Chelsea, New York, in an email to The Korea Herald.

Im, who lives and works in New York and Seoul, studied painting and printmaking at Yale University and currently teaches at Sungshin Women’s University in Seoul. He has been included in group exhibitions around the world, including the Seoul Museum of Art; Royal Academy of Arts, London; Sungkok Art Museum in Seoul and The Honolulu Academy of Art.

At the Ryan Lee Gallery inaugural exhibition, Im presents hyperrealist images of famous tourist destinations and cultural places around the world using a blend of two media: photography and painting.

“Im explores the way these sites have become global spaces, transcending their national identity and instead becoming truly international sites,” the gallery notes in the press release. The places he features in his works include Bulguksa Temple, the Palace of Versailles, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Times Square and subway stations.

Im participated in a group exhibition of young Korean artists in 2009 organized by Lee for which he selected artists who transcend their national heritage. The exhibition aimed to explore contemporary elements of art among artists of the same nationality.

“I am tired of labels when we are supposed to be global and international, and I think it is problematic to try to group artists together by their national identity, especially when even national borders have become much more fluid,” said Lee.

Lee, who is Korean-American, recently became a partner in the former Mary Ryan Gallery, after working 10 years with the founder. The gallery changed its name to Ryan Lee Gallery following a reorganization.

“Jeff Lee has continued to examine South Korean artists since then and he has great aspiration to bring a fresh take on the art scene in Chelsea at the newly opened Ryan Lee Gallery,” said Im in an email.

Lee said he plans to focus on contemporary art rather than highlighting artists of specific countries.

“Some of the success stories (of Korean artists) are from a slightly older generation like Do Ho Suh, Bryon Kim, Michael Joo and Lee Ufan who all have had important international platforms to showcase their work,” he said.

“The ones that will have success will be the ones that can work outside the parameter of a general label such as Korean contemporary art,” Lee noted.

The exhibition “Sangbin IM: Spectacle” runs from Friday to May 24 at Ryan Lee Gallery in New York. For more information, visit ryanleegallery.com.

By Lee Woo-young

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