In Memoriam: Yong Soon Min (1953-2024)

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of artist, curator, and professor Yong Soon Min. Through her multidisciplinary practice, Min investigated the ongoing Korean War, colonialism, intersections of memory and history, and diasporic identity. She was an innovator in the field of American installation art beginning in the 1990s and an inspiration to countless students and art audiences internationally. 


Min was born in 1953 during the Korean War in Bugok, a village south of Seoul, South Korea. She immigrated to the United States with her family at age seven, settling in Monterey, California. She began her formal art studies at Monterey Peninsula College in 1970 and transferred to UC Berkeley, where she earned her B.A., M.A., and M.F.A. degrees in art. As a graduate student, she befriended the artist and writer Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, who suggested that Min exhibit her art at the San Francisco Art Institute Annual in 1980. That same year, she participated in the studio program of the Whitney Independent Study Program and worked as the master printer for Claes Oldenburg’s “Screwarch Bridge State II” series at Aeropress, New York. As part of the emerging Asian American artist community in the city in the 1980s-90s, Min participated in the grassroots organizations Godzilla: Asian American Art Network and the Asian American Arts Alliance. Here, she was encouraged to create visual responses to anti-Asian violence and imperialism. Her identity was intimately shaped by Cold War politics, including the protests against the Vietnam War and the continued division of Korea.


Min joined the Department of Art faculty at UC Irvine in 1993, just a few months after the devastation of the L.A. Uprising. Her classes made a timely impact on many students who were reeling in the wake of the violent spring. During her twenty-one years of teaching, Min urged students to mine their life experiences as a valuable resource for creativity. She encouraged them to think critically and embrace experimentation in their art practices. Min’s investment in her students inspired them long after their time in the classroom and created a community of younger artists connected by her mentorship.  


Since 1980, Min exhibited her work throughout the US and internationally. She participated in the landmark exhibition The Decade Show (1989) and enjoyed solo exhibitions at the Bronx Museum of the Arts (1991), Krannert Art Museum (1997), and Art in General (1998), among others. She took part in the Havana Biennial in 1989, 1994, and 2009 and curated several exhibitions, including THERE: Sites of Korean Diaspora (2002) for the Fourth Gwangju Biennale, transPOP: Korea Vietnam Remix (2007-2009) with Viêt Lê, and Annual Report (2008) with Okwui Enwezor at the Seventh Gwangju Biennale.


During a 2010 Fulbright residency in South Korea, Min suffered a cerebral hemorrhage that impacted her speech and memory. This experience and subsequent recovery were the subject of her 2016 exhibition AVM: After Venus (May)formation at the Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles. At the time of her death, her work was on view at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and the Eric Firestone Gallery, New York.


Min served on the Board of Directors of the Asian American Arts Alliance, Artists Space, Women’s Caucus for the Arts, the College Art Association, the Side Street Gallery, and the Korean American Museum. She received awards from the City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department, the Korea Foundation, Anonymous Was a Woman, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Min’s art is recognized in art historical texts about Californian, Korean, Asian American, and contemporary art. Her work is in the collections of several major museums, including the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), and the Seoul Museum of Art. The Jack and Shanaz Langson Institute and Museum of California Art (Langson IMCA) at UCI is organizing a fall 2024 exhibition of her last commissioned work, The Kiss, and a 2027 retrospective, Yong Soon Min: Both Sides Now.


Min died from breast cancer on March 12, 2024, at her home in Los Angeles in the company of family and friends. Remembrances and photographs can be posted at Min’s family requests that donations in her honor be given to GYOPO, the collective of Korean diaspora artists and cultural producers:


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