• News
  • Mar 14, 2024

Yong Soon Min, 1953–2024

Portrait of YONG SOON MIN. Screenshot taken from the Instagram of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. 

On March 12, Yong Soon Min, a Korean-American artist whose politically charged works convey Asian diaspora experiences, passed away aged 70 at her Los Angeles home. Her death was announced the following day by Los Angeles’s Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA LA). 

Min was born in the southeastern Korean village of Bugok in 1953, coinciding with the Korean Armistice Agreement. At age seven, the artist emigrated to California with her family. She studied at the University of California in Berkeley during the 1970s, before moving to New York in 1981. There, she worked as an administrative coordinator for the Asian American Arts Alliance from 1985­ to 1986. Min reflected that the 1980s were an important period for her, as many began to recognize “how little representation of women existed in the arts and likewise that there was virtually no representation of Asian American artists.”

In 1989, she created Make Me, a series of black-and-white self-portraits that she split in half and cut out racialized words such as “EXOTIC” and “ALIEN.” Considered one of her most iconic works, Make Me was presented in 1990 at “The Decade Show: Frameworks of Identity in the 1980s,” a multidisciplinary exhibition staged by New York’s New Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Hispanic Art, and the Studio Museum in Harlem. Min and other Asian American artists thereafter formed Godzilla (1990–2001), a New York collective that produced exhibitions and forums for social change advocacy. She later relocated to Los Angeles with her former husband, photographer Allan deSouza. 

In 2011 Min suffered an arteriovenous malformation (AVM), a rare brain hemorrhage that permanently altered the way she used language. After recovering, she shared her experience in “AVM: After Venus (Mal)formation” (2016) at Los Angeles’s Commonwealth & Council gallery. 

Min has participated in major international art exhibitions such as the 7th Gwangju Biennale in South Korea in 2008 and the 10th Havana Biennial in 2009. Her work is currently being shown in “Godzilla: Echoes from the 1990s Asian American Arts Network” at New York’s Eric Firestone Gallery until March 16. The ICA LA is also presenting Min’s Defining Moments series (1992) in “Scratching at the Moon,” the city’s first focused survey on Asian American artists, until May 12, 2024. 

Camilla Alvarez-Chow is an editorial assistant at ArtAsiaPacific. 

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