March 20, 2007 - San Jose Museum of Art - IL LEE MID-CAREER SURVEY OF PAST THREE DECADES
March 20, 2007


BK-002, 2006. Ballpoint pen on canvas, 80 x 127 inches. Courtesy of Art Projects International (API), New York.

Il Lee
Ballpoint Abstractions

March 11-July 8, 2007

The San Jose Museum of Art
110 South Market Street
San Jose, CA 95113

On March 11, 2007, the San Jose Museum of Art (SJMA) debuted Il Lee: Ballpoint Abstractions, a major survey of ballpoint pen works on paper and canvas by Il Lee. Lees ballpoint abstractions are innovative, forward looking, and historically grounded. Using ballpoint pens, Lee creates intimate to large-scale blue and black ink paper drawings and large format, subtly colored works on canvas. These works are contemporary and clearly reference traditional Asian ink painting while remaining accessible and conceptually rigorous.

“The San Jose Museum of Art is honored to present Lee’s first major museum solo exhibition in the United States, said Daniel T. Keegan, Oshman Executive Director of the San Jose Museum of Art. With having shown his work in New York, Paris, and Seoul, Lees art is ready for a more in-depth survey exhibition tracing the development of his unique medium, not normally associated with fine art: the ballpoint pen.”
Il Lee: Ballpoint Abstractions begins with work dating from the early 1980s. After earning his BFA in Painting from the prestigious Hong-Ik University in Seoul, Korea, Lee moved to New York to study at the Pratt Institute, where he earned his MFA. Here Lee began using the ballpoint pen and this unconventional medium soon became his artistic signature. He utilizes the traditional medium of ink with a contemporary twist, employing either blue or black pens.

“Lee harnesses the tension that exists between opposing forces of tradition and invention, creating a harmonious balance, said JoAnne Northrup, Senior Curator at SJMA. His work speaks to the larger role that art plays in our lives: of creating opportunities to reflect; observe; contemplate; and ultimately understand on a deeper level.”
Il Lee: Ballpoint Abstractions reveals Lee at the height of his abilities, working with mastery and experimentation in his signature ballpoint pen medium. Lee’s work has the look of frenzied activityone can sense the actual movements of his arm; and yet it is contained, controlled, and modulated activityorder within chaos. It is both monumental, and personal; seen from a distance, its imposing, yet up close one has a completely different experience due to the rich texture and the simple materials.

Lee became known for his moderately-scaled works on paper. Il Lee: Ballpoint Abstractions brings together for the first time these earlier works along with his impressive, large-scale works on canvas and paper created in the past two years.
EXHIBITION ORGANIZATION Il Lee: Ballpoint Abstractions is organized by the San Jose Museum of Art. The exhibition curator is JoAnne Northrup, Senior Curator at the San Jose Museum of Art.
Il Lee: Ballpoint Abstractions is generously supported by Yvonne and T. Michael Nevens, Art Projects International (API), New York, and Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP.
PUBLICATION Il Lee: Ballpoint Abstractions, published by the San Jose Museum of Art, features essays by JoAnne Northrup and Edward Leffingwell, New York-based art critic and writer. The book is available at the San Jose Museum Store or by visiting
Please contact Valerie Shagday at 408.271.6881 or

Established in 1969, the San Jose Museum of Art is a distinct voice in the San Francisco Bay Area arts community. The Museum is recognized for its contemporary collection, which reflects the West Coast contextualized by national and international visual art. The collection reflects the unique evolution of the institution from a small civic art gallery to a museum in the tenth largest city in the United States.

The San Jose Museum of Art is distinguished by its commitment to accessibility, education, and community outreach. Open six days a week, the Museums hours are: Tuesday Sunday 11 a.m. 5 p.m. General admission is $8 for adults, $5 for students and senior citizens; a $2 discount for San Jose Library cardholders. Children six years of age and under are free. For general visitor information, visit the SJMA Web site at or call 408.294.2787.

Nicole McBeth
San Jose Museum of Art

Shari Boxer Baker
JDS Group Communications

The San Jose Museum of Art

San Jose Museum of Art
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