Late architect melded wind, nature, buildings in 2 nations
Itami, whose real name was Yoo Dong-ryong, was born in 1937 to Korean parents in Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan. His identity as a zainichi Korean (Koreans living in Japan) made him an outsider in both countries.
“However, until his death, my father refused to be naturalized as a Japanese citizen,” his daughter, Yoo E-hwa, said last week at MMCA.
Yoo, who is also an architect, added “although there were many limitations to expand his career [to remain as a Korean,] my father did not compromise with the harsh reality.”
The exhibition begins with the “Origin of Itami Jun’s Works,” which displays Itami’s wide range of artistic productions, including paintings, calligraphy and writing.
Itami was influenced by Mono-ha, a Japanese artistic movement that was notable in the late 1960s to early 1970s. Mono-ha focused on using raw, unaltered materials found on earth, and Itami specifically focused on the wind.
“[I try to] listen to the language spoken by the topography of the land and the ‘voice of the wind,’?” Itami wrote in his book, “Architecture and Urbanism 1970-2011.”
By the late 1990s, he was questioning the relationship between architecture and nature. Itami hoped his buildings could communicate with the surrounding nature by seeking harmony while sometimes conflicting with it.
The start of the 2000s marked another change: He moved his base to Jeju Island, where he found his everlasting muse - the wind. Curator of the MMCA, Jeong Da-young, said, “Jeju Island is symbolic to the architect, since it not only resembles his hometown, Shizuoka, but it’s also where the wind comes from.”
Itami was interested in selecting the materials for his buildings because he believed every architectural work conveys its regional context. He hoped architecture could be a medium to connect the self with the world.
In the last part of the exhibition, viewers can visit Itami’s workshop, where his artistic inspirations were born. Viewers can see an old, white porcelain from the Joseon era (1392-1910) and his old Korean-Japanese dictionary.
The exhibition runs until July 27. Admission is free. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and Sundays, and to 9 p.m. on Saturdays. It is closed on Mondays. Go to Seoul Grand Park Station, line No. 4, exit No. 4 and take the shuttle bus. For details, call (02) 2188-6000. www.mmca.go.kr
By Kim Hee-eun contributing writer [firstname.lastname@example.org]