Art Projects International

San Jose Mercury NewsApril 2, 2007

“Beauty in Ballpoint: Distinctive Doodles by Il Lee” by Sara Wykes

IL LEE: Ballpoint Abstractions at the San Jose Museum of Art is reviewed by Sara Wykes on the front page of The Mercury News Sunday Art Section.


In this mass of little experiments, Lee has played with lines like a composer noodling away on a piano. After more than 20 years of such playing, he has expanded to complex symphonies of powerful visual notes: “BL-060” (2005) is nearly room-sized, spreading across a 7-by-12-foot canvas. His lines shout out with an effluent energy and intelligence that drives the ink, sending it roaring from one side to the other.

The art museum is hosting Lee’s first major museum survey exhibition, “Ballpoint Abstractions,” and as a cool-tech extra, it has loaded a short YouTube video of the artist at work onto its Web site (; it also features five of Lee’s images as a mini-preview of the show. The museum has published an excellent catalog for the exhibit featuring an essay by its organizer, San Jose Museum of Art senior curator JoAnne Northrup…

He masses his slender lines of blue or black ink until they form dense bodies or solid platforms. From those foundations, delicate sprays launch themselves into space in a visual language that makes it hard to tell if objects are colliding or reaching out, floating or overflowing.

But most certainly, they are moving, driven by Lee’s distinctive push.

What also is clear is the appeal of Lee’s ambiguous forms. What Lee has accomplished with single lines transforms inanimate, everyday inks into vibrant fields of color with trailing edges that sway through a luminous atmosphere, seemingly with no top or bottom. Using a limited tool, Lee expresses exquisite complexity.

– Sara Wykes

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