Jim Lee shies away from grandeur, and likewise from nostalgia. His paintings – well, “objects” is more apt, whether painted, constructed, or in between – exist stubbornly unto them selves. They adroitly dance on the periphery of painting with a capital “P” and, in this meta-territory, attain freedom – the freedom to enjoy a humble beauty while re-presenting everyday things in a new light.
Ironically, yet appropriately enough, this freedom is constructed from routine. A packrat, Lee collects detritus from his daily walks to the studio and saves scraps from his working processes. This fodder (bits of wood, cloth, metal, plastic, and other simple, discarded materials) is cobbled together, pigmented, revisited, added to, subtracted from, and finally left to its own existence. There’s nothing alchemical or mystical beyond a considered and informed reconfiguration of stuffs.
The resultant objects are indeed entities. They deny classification within any predetermined genre and exhibit character worthy of anthropomorphism while remaining distinctly inanimate. Dead Air (all works 2008) is a prime example. Hovering between existing as cushion and painting, this piece is stitched, stapled, cut, stuffed, and then affixed to the wall. Paint is brushed on and scruffed off. The object denies its potential for function, creates and defeats its own “character,” and perseveres as a combination of visual and tactile stimulus.
Likewise, Pride and Shame exists at a similar crossroad of object-hood, painting, and entity. This piece, resembling a half-filled sack, harkens to Claus Oldenberg. It exposes the materiality of Lee’s painting utensils, and lays bare any pretense associated with the abstract painting model. The artist leaves us with a transfiguration of materials towards no other end then their visual persistence; a sort of anti-alchemy if you will – using lead to make lead.
This honesty of materials is not an end in itself. Lee is obviously deeply invested in reconfiguration as a means of exposure and understanding. His canvases reveal their physical characteristics, display their stretchers, and plainly exhibit any number of other motions towards artifice. In much the same vein Lee has addressed the gallery space. Walls have been “collected” and used to change the physical dynamic of the exhibition. Offices have been blocked off, windows covered, walls opened. All point towards revealing the functional dynamics of the gallery and maximizing the aesthetic presence of the individual works – in essence giving the viewer a new relationship to the familiar.
Jim Lee received his MFA from the University of Delaware before relocating to Brooklyn, NY. His work has been exhibited throughout the United States and Europe, most recently at White Flag Projects, St. Louis; The University of Delaware, Newark; OHT Gallery, Boston; Mississippi State University, Starkville; The University of the Arts, Borowsky Gallery, Philadelphia; CRG Gallery, NY; The Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase; Allston Skirt, Boston; and Galerie Markus Winter, Berlin. He currently teaches at Hofstra University and Queens College. This is the artist’s second solo exhibition with Freight + Volume.