Thursday, October 6th – Saturday, November 5th, 2011
Third Floor, Gallery M
Opening Reception: Thursday, October 6th, 6pm – 8pm
Chelsea Art Museum is pleased to present Maelee Lee: Infinite Space, curated by Dr. Thalia Vrachopoulos, Ph.D and Elga Wimmer.
From the perspective of artist Maelee Lee, her photographic installations are a manifestation of atmosphere, negative space, as well as artistic or infinite space. These concepts, or morphologies, closely challenge how we understand “space,” which can take on different forms depending on one’s approach: through mathematics, psychology, mechanics, philosophy, and that of one’s personal history.
In her first series, entitled Absolute Space (2011), Lee tackles issues of time and space, being and existence. Her references to the real, physical world take on the form of everything from a mountain or the sea to pages of a book. Within Lee’s worlds, white sculptural, geometric forms are multiplied through planes in space and time, as if they have been refracted and reflected through infinite mirrors. At the same time, the curves of a woman’s high heel shoe contrasts with its pristine, linear surroundings, and act as a distinct and direct allusion to a female presence. The spatial relationship between these disparate elements and its position in respect to the viewer makes us further question the work’s deeper, ambiguous meanings.
Lee’s 2010 Ocean series are photographs that present contradictory conceptions about space: one that is solid and visible, while alternately can be observed and invisible. The solid/void relationship holds great significance for Korean culture, and is associated with the yin and yang, or feminine and masculine principles of Taoism. In this context, the void is full and empty simultaneously. In Lee’s hands, this idea is translated into physically sliced photographs of the ocean taken during different weather conditions so that the horizontal slats are read as solid and voids. Much like Carl Andre and Sol LeWitt’s Minimalist sculptures are intended to reduce artistic components to their most basic levels, Lee appropriates these minimal, clean lines that further emphasize the conceptual above all else.
Lee’s Poetics of Space (2011) take on socio-political ideals of feminist thought through a photographic series depicting land-seascapes with underlying textual references. To Lee, substance is represented by natural forms while the texts refer to immaterial concepts and worlds of a wholly different time and space. For instance, when Lee alludes to Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, her intention is to encompass the author’s own historical and personal environment. In the essay, Woolf postulates for women’s right to have a space of their own in which to be creative and the means with which to support themselves. Lee pairs imagery taken from the concrete, visible world and the immaterial concept of liberation, and in this way presents both solidity and the intangible. Lee also employs text from Heo Nanseiolheon, a Korean poet of the 16th Century Chosun Dynasty. In Kyunwonka, Heo’s stance is decidedly feminist and writes about the unrequited longing of women for such recognition. Woolf’s writings, just as with those of Heo, advocate for women’s independence. Although these two heroines didn’t live to see their independence during their own lifetimes, Lee celebrates these authors as being far ahead of their own time and space. By inscribing these landscapes with their words, Lee claims these spaces and rights on behalf of them.
Taken as a whole, Lee’s work examines a myriad of themes from ancient Greek geometry to Asian philosophy and modern philosophical precepts of space as they pertain to feminist thought. In this way, her work cannot be easily categorized and must be viewed on multiple levels. Ultimately, her work is deeply rooted in conceptual ideals that merge history, personal experience, and perceptions of our physical reality.
This exhibition is made possible by the support of DISTECH CO., LTD.