Sunday, March 17, 2013

Chunghie Lee at The Korea Society

To ring in Asia Week, the Korea Society hosted an exhibition by one of our favorite fiber artists, Chunghie Lee.  We attended the opening reception on Thursday, March 14th. Textile enthusiasts, listen up! The show, titled "Bojagi: Cloth, Color and Beyond" will run through May 31 at the Korea Society Gallery at 950 Third Avenue, 8th Floor (at 57th Street).

Jiyoung Jin, Gallery Director, curated the show and introduced Chunghie Lee (left) at the gallery talk on Thursday evening.

The show features bojagi -- Korean piecework wrapping cloths -- which were once commonly used in every day life to carry, cover and store objects.  While bojagi-making for utilitarian purposes is no longer widely practiced in Korea, contemporary fiber artists like Ms. Lee have adopted it as an art form.

Chungie Lee incorporates traditional bojagi motifs into her innovative designs and original color compositions.  Her choice of fabrics ranges from silk, ramie, hemp, handmade paper and silk-screen printing. Her colors range from black and white to practically every shade in the color spectrum.  She sometimes leaves the threads hanging to enhance the three-dimensionality of her work.  For more information about Chungie Lee and her work, click here or go to .

This life-size multi-color bojagi construction on silk organza coat (below) called No-Name Women Durumagi was made in 2007.

The delicacy of this translucent silk organza shoe (below), with pale patchwork stitched panels is enhanced by the transparent inner slipper in a vibrant shade of red. A photograph of a similar pair of these shoes from 1999, now in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, appears in Chunghie's book Bojagi and Beyond.

Valerie posed in the lobby of the Korea Society Gallery in front of a piece simply titled No-Name Women 13 (2010-2013) made of hemp and measuring 38" x 48". Ms. Lee's No-Name series pays particular homage to the myriad of nameless female Korean traditional artisans who made bojagi through the ages. The tradition of making and using bojagi started during the Chosun Dynasty (1392-1910). In the preface to her book, Ms. Lee talks respectfully of these nameless women. With little education, they led lonely and oppressive lives, rarely leaving their homes, frugally saving tiny scraps of silk to craft in stolen moments beautiful patchwork wrapping cloths called ChoGakBo.

This No-Name Women Durumagi from 2001 features silk-screen printing on Korean mulberry paper with red stitching.

Here is a detail from the coat showing the face of one of the many No-Name women.

We initially learned about Chunghie Lee via her other career as a fashion designer where she is best known for her innovative and bold designs.  As part of the Victoria and Albert Museum's Fashion In Motion series of live catwalk events, Ms. Lee showed her work in London in April 2001.  Her clothing reinterpreted the colors and shapes of traditional Korean dress and incorporated bojagi patchwork techniques. The show was curated by Dr. Charlotte Horlyck.

Ms. Lee presented clothing ranging from delicate but vibrantly colored silk organza to coarse, textured hemp to handmade paper in strong asymmetrical, linear shapes.  Original music inspired by the No-Name Women series was composed and performed by Jiwoong Chung.

We first met Chunghie Lee three years ago at the Philadelphia Museum Craft Show where she was exhibiting her own line of clothing known for its patternwork, intricate construction, and outside-the-box thinking. At that time, Jean purchased Chunghie's fabulous black and white striped wool  kimono coat (shown here) which is reversible to a white and black stripe.

We loved her clothing and were amazed to find that she was also an artist who teaches at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), was a Fulbright Scholar, and has exhibited her work in over 15 countries worldwide.  Needless to say, we were thrilled when she recognized us right away at the Korea Society reception and was sweet enough to autograph and inscribe Jean's copy of Bojagi and Beyond. BTW, don't you love her hair cut and glasses?

We had to show you the back of Chunghie's tunic which she designed, dyed and made herself. If you look closely, you can see there is a wonderful little strip of organza that runs along the bottom, echoing the bojagi patchwork style. A perfect finishing touch!

One of Chunghie Lee's most dramatic art pieces incorporates silk-screened images of these socially disregarded women on hand-dyed hemp along with biblical passages from Proverbs 31 describing the spiritual and practical virtues exhibited by these women. Called No-Name Women 2006, the crimson red hanging scroll is 24 feet long by 32 inches wide and dominates the small gallery.
This No-Name Women paper wall piece made in 2004 measuring 55" x 384" is photo image silk screen printing, with oriental ink stick dyed on Korean mulberry paper. It was first displayed as invited work at the 2004 Holland Paper Biennale.

This close-up of a section of the immense wall hanging really brings the faces of a sextet of nameless women into focus.

Jiyoung Chung (left), Chunghie Lee's daughter, poses with one of her friends wearing a top designed by her mother. Jiyoung is a well-known joomchi artist, painter and writer -- joomchi is the ancient Korean art of paper making.  Since we first met Jiyoung three years ago at the Philadelphia Museum Craft Show,  we've reconnected with her at the Arts of the Pacific Asia Show in New York on several occasions, as well as at each of the subsequent Philadelphia shows.  She lives and teaches at RISD in Providence. To learn more about Jiyoung's joomchi, click here or go to .

We wanted to end with a shot of the gorgeous screen in the reception hall which is just visible behind Jiyoung in the photo above.  If you are in New York City between now and May 31, and are interested in fiber art and textile design, we strongly recommend this wonderful, free resource. The gallery is open Monday through Friday 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM.

What we're wearing:
Valerie is wearing: vintage red mouton hat labeled Granite State Toy Co., vintage red and black plastic (?) earrings from Etsy, red Ungaro cotton velveteen jacket (from the annual Lighthouse fundraising sale), Pleats Please shirt (worn backward), Betsey Johnson pants, Frye boots.

Jean is wearing: a Comfy USA polka-dot bubble skirt; Kyodan jacket; Creepsville black skull necklace; Ignatius hat; cross-body bag from street vendor; Underground black and white creepers;  Fabulous Fanny's vintage glasses; vintage bakelite earrings and rings and bracelet.


  1. Thanks for sharing this - the story of the No-Name women is so interesting, and the pieces in the show that celebrate them are visually stunning!

  2. Always love to read about, and see! your adventures. Smiles to you both

  3. I hope you are well -- it's been awhile since we have heard from you and just wanted you to know that you are missed!