Kavi Gupta is pleased to present a monographic exhibition of paintings by Young-Il Ahn. Born in Gaeseong, Korea, in 1934, Ahn is renowned for his intricate, large-scale paintings, which explore his relationship with beauty, nature and music. His work is frequently associated with Dansaekhwa, an aesthetic position specific to Korea, which expresses natural processes through a mostly monochromatic palette. As a Korean-born painter working in the US, Ahn is unique among Dansaekhwa artists.
This exhibition at Kavi Gupta’s Elizabeth Street gallery in Chicago marks a triumphant moment in the career of this vital artist. Ahn was recently honored with a large-scale solo exhibition at LACMA—the first time a Korean artist has received the honor. Titled Unexpected Light: Works by Young Il Ahn, it shined a spotlight on his Water series, which Ahn has been developing for more than 30 years. In addition to the LACMA show, Ahn’s work was also recently explored in depth in a 35-year retrospective at the Long Beach Museum of Art, titled Young-Il Ahn: When Sky Meets Water. These celebrations befit the accomplishments of a man who has, for five decades, called Southern California his home.
Yet, Chicago was actually the first American city to recognize the talents of this extraordinary artist. That recognition came nearly 60 years ago by way of the Hull House, an arts and culture organization dedicated to social equality and justice, which was founded on Chicago’s south side. The Hull House offered free art classes for many decades. Numerous working class Chicago artists in the early and mid-20th century credited the Hull House with their education. It was in the Hull House Gallery that Young-Il Ahn had his first US solo exhibition in 1959.
Young-Il Ahn at Kavi Gupta brings this remarkable connection full circle, welcoming the artist back for the first time to the city where his American legacy began. The exhibition will explore Ahn’s entire oeuvre, premiering several new works from the Water series, as well as paintings from his California series, Sunset series, Musicians series, and Birds series.
These works are the latest manifestations of the meticulous, painterly method Ahn has developed, which mobilizes careful, methodical brush strokes, building up impasto layers of vibrant, colorful paint. They show an artist whose brilliance has not diminished with age, and who even now, at age 84, is at the height of his talent.
It is our honor to be able to bring these new expressions of this living master’s relationship with nature and humanity to Chicago.