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Woman with a Cellphone (2012) by Dongi Lee

October 12, 2012

From an exhibition called GARDEN OF UNCERTAINTY

Gallery 2 presents Dongi Lee’s solo show Garden of Uncertainty. Lee has spearheaded pop art in Korea and is well known for the character, Atomaus. The exhibition brings 13 paintings he produced from 2007 up to the present together, focusing on showcasing the broad spectrum of his world through diverse pieces we have never met under the same roof.

Mixture of seemingly inharmonious elements

Lee has attempted to combine the medium of acrylic painting with diverse subject matter and expressive methods. He created the Atomaus character through the combination of two celebrity cartoon characters, Atom (Astro Boy) and Mickey Mouse. Since 1993 when Lee first conceived Atomaus, he had no intention of lending any identity to the character. Likewise, he would not give any identity to this exhibition. In the show jolly, familiar works like Atomaus Eating Noodles and Flower Garden are harmonious with pieces that address profound, gloomy themes such as death and violence. His pieces on display vary in medium: animation images, SF images, and abstract images. In the Double Vision series produced in 2008, Lee fused heterogeneous genres into one scene.

Diverse references of K-drama, K-pop, art history, and philosophy

His work refers to pre-existing images rather than creating ones. Lee referred to Robert Morris’ conceptual work for I-Box; appropriated Caravaggio’s painting for A with the Head of A; and reinterpreted Freud’s portraits and religious themes. Works addressing his recent concern for K-Pop, or the Korean wave (Hanryu, the increase in popularity of South Korean entertainment and popular culture) is dominant. (In the art scene the term K-Pop is used to refer to different meanings, pop art that was pervasive since the late 1990s in Korea.) One example is a work that portrays Super Junior, an idol group. Lee took the motif of a Woman with a Mobile Phone from the image repetitively appearing in Korean dramas. He views drama characters perfectly manipulated as imaginary images similar to animation and game characters. Lee points out that contemporary people gradually become accustomed and desire to identify themselves with such images. These images have ambivalent features, sublimity and abstractness despite their superficial existence.

Garden of Uncertainty

Through this show we can review Lee’s art world and his view of art as a whole. Exploiting the Oriental concept of the garden, the artist denotes that the show is to present a middle position between his world and the external world, which is the state that is neither completely his nor others.

Text and Image via Daum

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