Young il Ahn Bio

 Young-il Ahn

Young-il Ahn in his studio in downtown Los Angeles, 2017. Photograph by the Los Angeles Times.

Young-il Ahn in his studio in downtown Los Angeles, 2017. Photograph by the Los Angeles Times.

Young-il Ahn was born in Gaeseong, Korea in 1934. While his Grandfather was a farmer, Ahn’s father was an artist specializing in semi-abstract painting. Between 1910 and 1945, Korea was a colony of Japan. In the 1930s, Ahn’s family moved to Tokyo, living in Horikiri, an area located in the Katsushika district in Northeast Tokyo. In Japan, the boy regularly encountered painting and art books in his father’s studio, and he began painting as a child. By the age of six, Ahn had his first solo exhibition in Tokyo and was recognized as an artistic prodigy. His mother was a musician who played and taught piano. Since his childhood, music has also played a key role in Ahn’s life. 

In 1943, during the second world war, the family returned to Korea. Ahn later majored in art at Seoul National University and often showed his work at the Bando Gallery, a venue that attracted the attention of many Americans active in Seoul during and after the Korean War. In 1957, thanks to the encouragement of the staff at the United States embassy, Ahn was included in a group exhibition at the World Art Gallery in New York City. In 1966, Ahn moved to New York, where he continued to exhibit his work. A year later, he moved to Los Angeles, where he has lived and worked ever since.

Young-il Ahn’s work of the last sixteen years has been inspired by the theme of water. The artist’s canvas of this period comprise large-scale abstractions that present an amazing and seemingly endless series of depictions of water and the ocean. Due to the transformative experience of once being lost at sea in a small boat on the Pacific Ocean in July 1983, Young-il Ahn has spent much of the past twenty years exploring the infinite manifestations of water in a wide array of colors and textures, all embodying an unambiguously contemporary aesthetic. Deceptively simple, his work is in reality complex, reflecting his rigorous artistic discipline. His paintings encourage a meditative state in the viewer. Now in his 80’s, Young-il Ahn is achieving widespread recognition in Korea and abroad.

Stephen Little, Curator and Head, Korean Art Department
Los Angeles County Museum of Art