Lee Seung Jio, “Nucleus 85-21” (1985), oil on canvas
SEOUL — On March 7, 2020, I reviewed the posthumous New York debut exhibition Lee Seung Jio: Nucleus at Tina Kim Gallery (February 20–April 4, 2022). Two weeks later, on March 22, 2020, Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered all non-essential businesses in New York City to close because of COVID-19. I thought about the fact that Lee’s show was closed down when I saw Lee Seung Jio at Kukje Gallery (September 1–October 30, 2022). Lee, who died in 1990 at the age of 50, is often considered a major figure in the Dansaekhwa (monochrome painting) movement that was central to Korean art between the late 1960s and late 1970s and comprises at least two generations of artists. While the first generation of Dansaekhwa artists, such as Park Seo-Bo, Ha Chong-Hyun, and Kim Tschang-Yeul, have gained an international reputation, Lee, who was a decade younger, remains one of the movement’s lesser-known artists.