HomeAsian AmericansKorean American artist Yong Soon Min dies at 70

Korean American artist Yong Soon Min dies at 70

Yong Soon Min, a Korean American artist who worked to convey the Asian identity in diaspora, passed away Tuesday at her Los Angeles home.

Her passing was announced by the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (ICA LA), where Min, who was 70, served on the artist advisory council, ARTnews reported. 

Born in Bugok, South Korea in 1953, Min immigrated to California with her family at the age of seven, later earning her BFA, MA and MFA at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1981, ArtReview noted, Min moved to New York to pursue her career as an artist.

After her first exhibit Half Home in 1986, Min began focusing her attention toward the Asian American identity. 

She noted in a 2020 interview how the 1980s were a pivotal time in her life as the community started to recognize “how little representation of women existed in the arts and likewise that there was virtually no representation of Asian American artists,” according to ARTnews.

“It opened my eyes to a lot of issues, especially how important it was to foster the development of Asian American arts broadly, and to be collaborative with other minoritized groups in actuality and in spirit,” said Min in 2020, ARTnews reported.

In 1989, Min unveiled one of her most notable pieces titled Make Me, which was a series of black-and-white self-portraits that emphasized racialized words such as “EXOTIC” and “ALIEN.” 

This work, among other pieces including Whirl War (1987), Defining Moments (1992) and Nexus (1992), made her one of the most significant Asian American feminist artists of the time, ArtReview noted. 

“We are extremely grateful for Yong Soon’s years of service to ICA LA … for contributing her wisdom, generosity, and collaborative spirit,” said ICA LA director Anne Ellegood in a statement, ARTnews reported. “She will be missed by so many. We are honored to have her work currently on view, which reflects her invaluable contributions to vital discourses on identity in our field over several decades and toward uplifting generations of artists in our community.”

Min, in collaboration with other Asian American artists, formed Godzilla, a collective in New York that developed exhibits and forums for social justice advocacy, ArtAsiaPacific reported. She also participated in the international art exhibitions Gwangju Biennale in South Korea in 2008 and Havana Biennial in 2009. 

Min passed as her work is being shown in “Godzilla: Echoes from the 1990s Asian American Arts Network” at New York’s Eric Firestone Gallery, which is on display until March 16, according to ArtAsiaPacific. ICA LA is also showcasing Min’s series Defining Moments (1992) in the city’s first focused survey on Asian American artists, Scratching at the Moon.

One of the many who mourned Min’s passing, ARTnews reported, was the artist Gala Porras-Kim, who described Min as an inspiration figure for “multiple generations of LA artists” whose “memory is installed in so many of our hearts and minds forever.”

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