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From Styrofoam Sofas To Hyperreal Cacti, An Overview Of The Work Of Kwangho Lee

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The practice of Korean artist and designer Kwangho Lee is difficult to define. Spanning the genres of painting, design, installation, and sculpture, Lee works with a diverse range of materials and techniques to transform everyday items into expressive, functional pieces.

Growing up on a farm outside of Seoul influenced Lee’s appreciation for craftsmanship: his grandfather, a farmer, taught him the value of making tools by hand, a lesson that followed him into a career of inventiveness. In his art, Lee uses industrial materials in different ways—lamps and light installations made from tangled extension cords and electrical cables, stools made from woven garden hoses, and a sofa carved from a block of white styrofoam, are just a few examples. In addition, his work revives traditionally ancient processes like ‘chilbo’, a Korean firing technique that involves applying wet or dry crushed glass to copper sheets, and melting them in a kiln. The results achieve a swirling, colored patina that give clarification to its name, translated from Korean as “seven colors of gem”.

Lee’s series ‘The moment of eclipse’ features design objects made from marble, copper, enamel, and steel, depicting different interpretations of a solar eclipse. Additionally, Lee paints hyper-realistic oil-on-canvas artworks of cacti, tediously composing each pin-like thorn with carefully applied brushstrokes. The tendency to utilize traditional techniques in the creation of modern art and design is no new feat, however Lee’s practice transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary, which is precisely why his work has captivated so many.

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All images © Kwangho Lee