Mazzoleni and Kukje Gallery present 'The Paradox of Proximity: Agostino Bonalumi and Lee Seung Jio'

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Mazzoleni and Kukje Gallery present 'The Paradox of Proximity: Agostino Bonalumi and Lee Seung Jio'
Installation view of The Paradox of Proximity: Agostino Bonalumi and Lee Seung Jio, Mazzoleni, London. Photo: Todd White Art Photography, London. Courtesy of Mazzoleni, London - Torino.

LONDON.- Mazzoleni is presenting the exhibition The Paradox of Proximity: Agostino Bonalumi and Lee Seung Jio, in collaboration with Kukje Gallery, from 11 October to 30 November 2023, at Mazzoleni London. The show is curated by esteemed Italian writer, art critic and curator Marco Scotini, in conjunction with Archivio Agostino Bonalumi, Milan and the Estate of Lee Seung Jio, Seoul.

This intimate display will showcase pioneering abstractionist Lee Seung Jio’s works, specifically his Nucleus series, where cylindrical “pipe” forms challenge the notion of opticality and played a pivotal role in defining Korean Modernism. These works will be exhibited alongside Agostino Bonalumi’s “extroflexions”, which seek a new dimension of space through monochromatic shaped canvases, each named after a specific colour. The exhibition will adopt this monochromatic theme, showcasing several of Bonalumi's works in white, such as Bianco (1973), juxtaposed with Lee Seung Jio's dark grey and black Nucleus works, like Nucleus 73-18 (1973).

The Paradox of Proximity embodies a significant effort to transcend the boundaries of art history beyond the Western hemisphere, taking inspiration from the ground-breaking project and exhibition Postwar: Art Between the Pacific and the Atlantic, 1945-1965, curated by Okwui Enwezor at Haus der Kunst in Munich in 2016. Enwezor’s exhibition demonstrated the need to map individual figures, cultural networks, and art systems in the most diverse contexts, as well as the relationship between them. This has since become a priority of the contemporary art agenda to define alternative, parallel, and non-aligned modernities.

In such context, to try to compare the works of two great artists such as the Italian Agostino Bonalumi (1935-2013) and the Korean Lee Seung Jio (1941- 1990), is to demarcate a horizon from the Atlantic to the Pacific during the 1960s and 1970s. Despite their different cultural and ideological backgrounds, both artists are pioneers in moving beyond the informal, employing a monochromatic character, as well as a rejection of the flat nature of the canvas and two-dimensionality. Lee Seung Jio’s work takes on a tubular form (repeated, rhythmic, and obsessive) and Bonalumi’s regularly spaced “extroflexions”, rectilinear, with ribbed or ‘shuttered’ effects. The exhibition title therefore alludes to the spatial and temporal distance between the two artists, whilst also highlighting the intriguing affinity of the research between them, thereby creating this paradox.

This exhibition serves as a testament to the fascinating parallels between Post-War Italian experimentations and the emergence of geometric abstraction in Korea. Through their partnership, Mazzoleni and Kukje Gallery will further explore these connections and shared themes at their joint booth at Frieze Masters from 11 October to 15 October, and welcome visitors and collectors alike to experience both presentations and explore the fusion of Italian and Korean artistic cultures.

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