Hyungkoo Lee, 2012

Hyungkoo Lee, 2012

Miki Wick Kim / Korean Contemporary Art (Germany, Prestel Verlag), 2012


In his artist’s studio resembling a lab at a museum of natural science, Hyungkoo Lee creates meticulously crafted and humorous sculptural works guided by a faux-scientific approach. His overarching interest is the alteration and enhancement of human and animal forms and functions as well as the creation of new imaginary forms.

Born in Korea, Lee relocated to the United States in his thirties to continue his art studies at Yale University. Informed in part by his experiences during this time, Lee focused his attention on the various cultural and ethnic stereotypes relating to the human body and the mass hysteria of bodily augmentations and cosmetic surgery according to Western standards. In his sculptural piece A Device (Gauntlet 1) that Makes My Hand Bigger (1999), Lee created a device assembled from simple materials to optically enhance the size and function of his hand. His experiments focus on the creation of a super being, its anatomical parts bizarrely exaggerated to the point of the extreme and the comic.

In Lee’s most celebrated series to date, his Animatus (2005-7) sculptures reveal the flawlessly detailed skeletons of cartoon characters such as the Road Runner in Geococcyx Animatus (2005-6) in desperate chase by Wile E. Coyote, Canis Latrans Animatus (2005-6). His recent Eye Trace (2010) series of sculptures comprising of experimental devices, constructed from modest and found objects within his personal possession, enable the user to instantly metamorphose into another species. In his performances connecting and responding to these devices, Lee experiences the optical vision of other life forms such as fish and insects. The artist “transforms himself into a circuit within a network in order to unite with a machine or animal. This does not represent a diminution of humanity, but rather a transformation for the sake of a different kind of progression. In fact, human history is the culmination of a process of continuous conversion of the center.”[1]


[1] Lee Sun-young, “Machines Transform Humans and Animals” SPACE, no.512(July 2010), p.111