Lehmann Maupin is pleased to announce its co-representation of pioneering artist Kim Yun Shin (b. 1935, Wonsan, North Korea) with Kukje Gallery. In February 2024, Lehmann Maupin will present a dedicated selection of works by Kim at Frieze Los Angeles, followed by an In Focus presentation at Lehmann Maupin New York in March. Additional forthcoming exhibitions include the artist’s first solo exhibition at a Korean gallery, opening at Kukje Gallery in March 2024. This comes on the heels of the artist’s recent solo exhibition at Nam-Seoul Museum of Art in 2023.
Kim, who is currently based between Buenos Aires and Seoul, is regarded as one of the first women to formally train as a sculptor in Korea and remains actively involved in her artistic practice today. Over the last six decades, Kim has expanded her practice to include painting and printmaking, enabling her to explore her sculptural ideas in a two-dimensional format. Like a number of artists in the Lehmann Maupin program, Kim is inspired by the environment and uses her work to point to the constructed nature of the landscape. The artist’s unique and organic visual language is grounded in her deep reverence for nature and is influenced by her nomadic lifestyle, which has taken her around the world—from studying in France in the 1960s, to immigrating to Argentina from Korea in 1984, to living in Mexico and Brazil. Guided by her philosophical reflections on nature and the universe, Kim’s work embodies traditional forms and ideas, painstakingly shaped through her physical labor.
As one of the first international galleries with an outpost in South Korea, Lehmann Maupin is deeply connected to Seoul and the region. The gallery is privileged to work with historically important Korean artists such as Do Ho Suh, Lee Bul, Sung Neung Kyung, and Suh Se Ok—relationships that date back to as early as 2000 and which have been crucial in shaping the DNA of the gallery. Lehmann Maupin is committed to representing and nurturing the careers of artists from throughout the region, supporting their international exposure by offering a platform to exhibit their work for the first time in new geographies. The gallery also has a strong interest in working with pioneering women artists from around the world including, Cecilia Vicuña, Shirazeh Houshiary, and Heidi Bucher, among others.
Emma Son, Lehmann Maupin’s Senior Director based in Seoul says: “Kim’s foundational work as a first-generation woman sculptor in Korea in the late 60s and 70s was instrumental in paving the way for the future generation of women artists and has contributed to the rich diversity of Korean art. Like other pioneering Korean artists from this era, Kim challenged conventional norms in society, including the patriarchy. Kim’s fiercely independent spirit and perseverance have resulted in an incredibly prolific career, and we’re so honored to have the opportunity to share Kim’s work with new audiences—and to partner with Kukje Gallery on such a monumental moment for the artist.”
Kim Yun Shin says: “The year 2023 was a significant turning point in my 60-year artistic career. The decision to work in Argentina for the past 40 years was driven by my own determination. And my visit to Korea in 2022 was planned as the final visit to my homeland, considering I will turn 90 in the near future. I never imagined that I would have the opportunity to meet the founder of Kukje Gallery, Hyun-Sook Lee, and the co-founder of Lehmann Maupin, Rachel Lehmann, through my solo exhibition at Nam-Seoul Museum of Art in 2023. I deeply appreciate the support and encouragement from these two galleries, as well as the warm reception from people in my homeland. With my remaining strength, I will return everyone’s support by devoting my time to creating work that I hope will inspire many.”
Born in 1935 in Wonsan, Gangwon province (present day North Korea) during the Japanese occupation, Kim was impacted by a tumultuous political situation in her early childhood. Following the partition of Ko-rea after the Second World War and the outbreak of the Korean War, Kim and her family immigrated to Seoul, where she would forge her own path as an artist. In Seoul, Kim received her B.F.A. from Hongik University in 1959 and went on to study sculpture and lithography at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1964. In Paris, Kim immersed herself in the latest art trends and developed her sculp-tural sensibilities through diverse experiments. Returning to Seoul in 1969, she co-founded the Korea Sculptress Association along with other women artists while teaching sculpture at Sangmyung Univer-sity. During this time she also participated in numerous exhibitions, including, most notably, the 12th São Paulo Biennial in 1973. Drawn to the natural and expansive landscape of South America, Kim decided to move to Argentina in 1984, where she worked for decades and eventually went on to found the Museo Kim Yun Shin in Buenos Aires in 2008–the first and only museum established by a Korean-Argentine.
Influenced by the structural and spiritual elements of ancient practices, Kim’s artworks often unfold from a series of interactions with nature. She uses solid wood to embody the primordial world, or the world of origin. Her early 1970s sculptures are rooted in traditional Korean hanok architecture, which utilizes an architectural technique called ‘Gyeolgu-beop’ where, instead of using nails, the components are fitted together by carving slots, creating interlocking joints or grooves. She also explores traditions of vertical stacking present in Korean and Latin American totemism in her Stacking the Origins series. This notion of an organic connection and her interest in religiosity unite in her seminal Add Two Add One, Divide Two Divide One series, which she began in the late 1970s. The terms “add” and “divide” originate from the Eastern philosophical concepts of yin (division and fragmentation) and yang (addition and integration). Through a labor-intensive, and intuitive process, in which she “adds” her soul to the wood and “divides” the space between bark and inner wood to create a complete whole, the artist transforms the solid, rough masses of wood into soft, organic shapes.
Like her sculptural works, Kim’s paintings feature geometric surface fragmentations composed of highly saturated primary colors. Here too her process involves addition and subtraction—Kim adds pigment to her surfaces and then uses a palette knife to scrape off paint, generating geometric patterns as she works. Inspired by the colorful indigenous trees and stones of Argentina and South American totemism, she witnessed a striking resemblance in color and pattern to that of Korean totemism, which distinctly influenced her early experimentation with painting on canvas and her wooden sculptures. Kim’s approach to nature is both a spiritual and cultural exploration; as a result of direct observation of nature, she has come to an understanding of her surroundings as well as her Korean identity from the mediated perspective of her adopted home in South America.