Ephemeral but Unforgettable: Korean Experimental Art Is Having a Star Turn

At 80, Lee Kang-So lives in an expansive compound in Anseong, about 90 minutes south of Seoul, where he has various studios devoted to sculptures, installations and the minimal paintings that have made him a giant. But 50 years ago, he was still finding his way as he sat in a tavern in Daegu, his hometown, drinking makgeolli (a rice wine) with a friend. It was afternoon, the room was empty, but as he looked at the burns and scuffs left on the tables by cigarettes and pots, he felt he could hear the people who had been there. He pondered the transient nature of life and how he and his friend were experiencing the same room differently. “It was really a special moment,” he said.

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