Jim Lee "Altamont"
Space is a simple thing which can be difficult to comprehend and generations of artists through out history have played with space whether it be the spatial illusions of perspective and Trompe L'oiel or the Gestalt trickery of optical patterns which appear to vibrate between the trick of the eye and mind. And there also continues to be a tradition of artists taking apart space and reconfiguring it, from the cubist fragmentary picture plane to more conceptual approaches of artists like Gordon Matta Clark who famously cut a house in two and Lucio Fontana who pierced and slashed the skin of his canvas to subvert the power of painting and plumb the depths beneath. Material concerns and its relationship to the space a work of art occupies become architectural and emotive when it's working and impotent or even worse, disruptive when it's not. From Joe Fyfe's felt and fabric "paintings" to Phoebe Washburn's cardboard whirlwind constructions there are many artists today who successfully endeavor to push the idea of a painting or the physicality of an sculptural space with the use of raw materials and a deceptively simple visual bravado.
In the case of Jim Lee's exhibition entitled "Altamont" the artist uses the architectural elements of the exhibition space at Freight + Volume gallery to construct a wall that is then cut apart, and constructions are integrated into the space in a playful manner that places the viewer into the figure ground and plays with the lines of perception elusively drawn between his painting/sculpture objects.
Lee employs an eclectic approach to materials and detritus from the street and he creates a variety of compositions some accentuate their flatness, and raw material origins. Other works such as "Half Gassed" use the material of painting (painted canvas and wood stretchers) and yet the "painting" bends and twists out into the space. Its human scale appears to drunkenly falter outwards and into the middle of the room to dance with the viewer. There are several shaped canvases and while these tactics have been employed time and again by artists from Fontana to Elizabeth Murray, Lee manages to make them his own by instilling an awkward playfulness in the manner with which he approaches each construction. In "Untitled (Rust/Slit)" the object first appears as a painted cut and shaped flat surface. There is a rough hewn humanity to the appearance of thr image on the surface that draws the eye in closer. Peering behind the surface there can be seen a hodge-podge scaffolding of sticks propping the false front out into the physical space and away from the flatland of painting's illusion. There are several of these visual fake outs that occur and each is a curious surprise.
Lee's efforts to change the characteristics of the picture plane, twisting his constructions and puncturing the physical space on both a human scale and on a smaller intimate scale manage to disrupt the pristine white space of the gallery and there fore the viewers comfort zone. And in the end the works force us, the viewers, to approach each object in our space and address the emotional physicality of the work as well as pay attention to the materiality, form, and function.
By Andrew Cornell Robinson
Written for the Gay City News
Pierced II 2007
acrylic and lated paint on Sintra over wood
21 x 21 x 9 in/ 53.3 x 53.3 x 22.9 cm
Jim Lee "Altamont"
May 4 - June 16, 2007
Freight + Volume
542 West 24th Street
New york, NY 10011