Young-Il Ahn, Young Il-Ahn

Young-Il Ahn, Young Il-Ahn
07.14.2018 — 08.25.2018

Kavi Gupta is pleased to present a solo exhibition of original works by Young-Il Ahn.

Young-Il Ahn (b. 1934, Gaeseong, Korea) is renowned for intricate, large-scale, and meticulous paintings that explore his relationship with beauty, nature and music.

Ahn’s most famous paintings belong to his Water series. They are associated with Dansaekhwa, an aesthetic position specific to Korea, which expresses natural processes through a monochromatic palette. As a Korean-born painter working in the U.S., Ahn is unique among Dansaekhwa artists.

The son of an artist, Ahn began painting as soon as he could hold a brush. His exceptional natural ability led him to be considered a prodigy, and he was given his first solo exhibition in Tokyo at age six. He eventually earned his Bachelor of Art degree from Seoul National University, and shortly afterward, began his professional exhibition career. His first US group exhibition was in New York, in 1957. Two years later, Ahn had his first US solo exhibition—a moment that highlights a special connection he has with Chicago history.

That connection concerns the Hull House, a south side organization run by humanist reformers focused on equality and justice. The group offered free arts and crafts classes for many decades. Countless working class Chicago artists in the early and mid-20th century credited the Hull House with their education. Ahn had his first US solo exhibition in the Hull House Gallery in 1959.

In 1966, Ahn moved permanently to the US, settling first in New York, and soon afterward moving to Los Angeles, where he still lives and works today. His mature work is heavily influenced by California light and beach culture. His daily interaction with the sea, is the primary inspiration for his Water series, which he has been pursuing for three decades. Says Ahn: “When I look out upon the ocean, I tremble as if I am holding part of the universe in my hand. This is why, for the past thirty years I have ceaselessly tried, through The Water Series, to put that ‘tremble’ onto my canvasses.”

Since coming to the US, Ahn has exhibited all over the world, and his work has been featured in many museum shows. But for him, his most important accomplishment so far came in 2017, when his monographic exhibition opened at LACMA. The first museum show Ahn saw after moving to the US was at LACMA. It featured the work of Willem de Kooning. About that show, Ahn has said, “I was deeply moved and at the same time greatly challenged. The notion that someday I would have my own LACMA exhibition was simply unfathomable.”

Unexpected Light: Works by Young-Il Ahn is currently on view at LACMA through June 2018. Other recent exhibitions include Young-Il Ahn: A Memoir of Water (2015), and Young-Il Ahn: When Sky Meets Water (2017-18), both at the Long Beach Museum of Art, as well as appearances in the Art Busan International Art Fair, the Korea International Art Fair, the LA Art Show, and the Palm Springs Art Fair. Ahn’s work is also included in the permanent collections of LACMA, the Long Beach Museum of Art, The Korean National Contemporary Museum, and the Park Young Foundation.