Kavi Gupta proudly presents a solo presentation of Young-Il Ahn’s Water series for The Art Show 2021, presented by ADAA. This survey will offer viewers an intimate introduction to an artist of unparalleled talent and dedication, and to one of the most extraordinary bodies of abstract paintings created in the past 40 years.
Almost a year has passed since Ahn’s death. Born in 1934 in Gaesong—a North Korean city near the demilitarized zone, then part of colonial Japan—Ahn endured his allotment of trauma, from political pressure and war, to his sister’s death from drowning in a stream as a child. He found his oasis in the arts. His father, a painter, and mother, a musician, eagerly shared their vocations with their son. Ahn’s first solo painting exhibition came at age six, in Tokyo. He won the First Korean National Art Exhibition at age 15, just months before the Korean War began.
Ahn took refuge in the United States at the start of the Korean DMZ Conflict in 1966, choosing Los Angeles as his adoptive home. His earliest California paintings depicted birds, beach umbrellas, and the musicians he counted among his newfound friends. After a harrowing, near death experience of becoming lost in the fog on a fishing trip between Santa Monica and Catalina Island, Ahn had a profound experience that affected his painting practice from that moment onward. He writes in his memoir about the moment the fog finally lifted, and the brilliant sunlight illuminated the water’s surface:
“My favorite colors from nature stretched to infinity. The sunlight crashed and reflected against the water every moment, dispersing splendid and sparkling colors in layers.”
That phenomenal moment inspired Ahn to return to his studio, whence began his Water series, a nearly 40-year-long endeavor to put that profound experience of color and light into the canvas.