Korean American artist Yong Soon Min dies at 70


Yong Soon Min, a Korean American artist who was an outspoken advocate for Asian American art, has died at 70.

Key points:

  • The Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (ICA LA) announced Min’s death in an Instagram post on Wednesday.

  • Min served on the institute’s Artist Advisory Council for over a decade, from 2012 to 2023, and her works are currently on view as part of ICA LA’s “Scratching at the Moon,” an exhibit that celebrates the work of intergenerational leading artists from the Asian American community.

  • Good Works Executive Director Anne Ellegood said in a statement that the pioneering artist will be missed by so many, noting, “We are extremely grateful for Yong Soon’s years of service to ICA LA…for contributing her wisdom, generosity, and collaborative spirit.”

The details:

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  • Min began exploring the hybridities of Asian American identities after holding her first exhibit “Half Home” in 1986. Some of her earlier succeeding art works include “Make Me” (1989), “Defining Moments” (1992), “DMZ XING” (1994) and “Bridge of No Return” (1997).

  • The Korean American artist later incorporated themes of disability and language into her more recent work, influenced by a brain hemorrhage she suffered in 2011 that permanently affected her language abilities. Additionally, she integrated elements of Korean traditional art, such as the folding screen byeongpung, into pieces like “Alice” (Miok) (2017), “Last Notes and Sketches, Min Tae Yong (1918-2001)” (2016) and “Mnemonic Journey” (2018).

  • Throughout her career, Min received multiple grants and fellowships, including from prestigious programs such as the Fulbright Scholar Program (2011–2012), the City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department (2010–2011) and the Korea Foundation (2008).

Her affiliations:

  • Min was a member of Godzilla: Asian American Arts Network, a collective formed in 1990 that grew from a local organization to a nationwide collaboration of around 2,000 members before its unofficial dissolution in 2001. The group tackled multiple societal issues, including institutional racism, anti-Asian violence and the representation of Asian sexuality and gender, to name a few.

  • She was also a member of GYOPO, a collective that describes itself consisting of “diasporic Korean cultural producers and arts professionals.”

  • Min served as a member of the board of directors of Asian American Arts Alliance, a nonprofit organization that supports the work of New York City's Asian American artists, from 1986 to 1993 and also worked as its administrative coordinator.

  • At the time of her death, Min was serving as professor emerita at the University of California, Irvine.

About the artist:

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  • Born in Bugok, a village near Seoul, in 1953, Min described herself in her biography as a “Cold War Baby.”

  • Min moved to Monterey, California, with her mother and brother at the age of seven to rejoin their father. She entered the University of California, Berkeley’s Master of Fine Arts program in the ‘70s and moved to New York City in 1981, where she became “Asian Pacific/Korean American” and “cut her political teeth,” her biography read.

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