artists & participants

press release

Lee Ufan and His Friends II

21.10.2020 - 04.04.2021

In 2019, the Busan Museum of Art inaugurated ‘Lee Ufan and His Friends’ as part of its annual program. It is designed to use Space Lee Ufan as a venue for introducing artists who share an art-historical significance with Lee although their artistic genres may be different. In 2020, Bill Viola has been selected as the second artist to present at Space Lee Ufan. Bill Viola shares an international reputation with Lee and they both occupy a central position in the world of contemporary art.

Bill Viola and Lee Ufan convey the oriental spirit and sensibility intrinsic to the philosophy behind their work. Both artists transcend the contradictions of modernity by combining the methodological thinking of Western modernism with Eastern philosophy. A shared theme in the works of the two artists is the ‘relatum’ that enables viewers to encounter an alternative, transcendental world. The exhibition is presented in two parts. In the first part, Bill Viola’s early works are exhibited along with Lee Ufan’s works. In the second part, a selection of Viola’s works from 1995 until 2014 are displayed on the third floor of the museum’s main building.

The exhibition Bill Viola, Encounter presents the artist’s key works from his early period until the present. A total of sixteen works, ranging from his major works in the early 1970s to the recent large-scale video and sound installations are on display in the exhibition. On view in Space Lee Ufan are three single-channel videotapes: Migration (1976), The Reflecting Pool (1977-79), and Chott el-Djerid (A Portrait in Light and Heat) (1979). Exhibited in the main gallery of the museum are works such as The Greeting (1995), which was presented in the 1995 Venice Biennale, four works from the Martyrs series from 2014 based on a permanently installed piece at St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, and Going Forth By Day (2002), a large-scale video/sound installation composed in a cycle of five parts.

For over forty years, Viola has produced over two hundred works on the subject of humanity’s fundamental themes of life and death, and investigations into human consciousness. Viola transforms the functional aspects of video into emotional values and incorporates an abstract and spiritual world into his work. In step with the developments of technology, he has always employed new media and created new techniques for his investigations. However, rather than pursuing a specific art form, he always retained a meditative Eastern philosophy at the core of his enquiries. Viola’s work began with his unique fundamental questions. In his work, dualistic elements, such as life and death, existence and absence, matter and spirit, and human and nature, coexist and circulate together, although they exist in contrast at first glance.

The exhibition at the Busan Museum of Art provides a rare opportunity to appreciate Bill Viola’s diverse range of works in a broad overview that allows viewers to experience the artist’s unique and authentic visual language through all of their senses.

Bill Viola
Born in Queens, New York, in 1951, Bill Viola studied painting, new media, cognitive psychology, and electronic music at Syracuse University, New York State. A pioneer in the establishment of video as an art form, since 1972 he has created videotapes, architectural video installations, sound environments, electronic music performances, and videos for television. In his work, he has integrated many disciplines and philosophies including Zen Buddhism, Islamic Sufism, and Christian mysticism to present a broad view of contemporary art’s relevance to the modern world. As well as representing the US at the 46th Venice Biennale in 1995 he has had major solo exhibitions at The Museum of Modern Art, New York (1987), The Whitney Museum of American Art (1998), J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles (2003), Grand Palais, Paris (2014), Guggenheim Museum Bilbao (2017), and the Royal Academy of Art, London (2019).