ReviewFebruary 1, 1997
For marvels of drawing density, make a pilgrimage to Art Projects International on Broome Street where Il Lee, a Korean born artist is showing a large group of his ballpoint pen drawings for the first time (Line and Form: Drawings 1984-1996.) Captivated by the announcement card, I went down for a preview. Though the drawings are mostly recent, one initiating work from 1984 is included–a startling row of five black, hairy-looking ovals which seem so physical you’d swear they were removable. Figure/ground interaction is far more complex in the recent work. My favorite, Unititled #9613, 1996 has three black vertical massings, or two white columnar forms supporting something, depending on which way it is read. Playing sharp edges of solid black against the linear tangles zooming off other sides of a form he bends it in space. Manipulating the density of lines crossing white space he molds it into curving shapes. We see the activity as crosshatching and think shading, but no recognizable imagery disturbs the infinite motion of his force fields.
The larger drawings are more activated all over and are often dominated by ovals, whereas the smaller ones are sparser and more geometrical. He studied in Korea and at Pratt during the heyday of Minimalism, and it shows in these drawings. (He has also done a number of drawings containing only hard edged forms which have not been included.) But the furious energy in most of the work, and the obsessive nature of his approach, drawing line over line to build up the blacks, is not minimal at all. I was able to see one unframed so the directional linear massings were visible and I could get a sense of the surface of the Arches paper, which is miraculously smooth given the repetitive pen attacks made on it. Though not velvety, it does look fibrous, which of course it is, and matte. Lee has developed all sorts of techniques for controlling the paper given atmospheric changes and using its tendencies to his advantage, but then he is obviously a master of his craft.
– April Kingsley