Commonwealth & Council:
Kang Seung Lee
In his new project at Commonwealth & Council, “and Child,” Kang Seung Lee plunges deeper into his interest in rules and systems and branching investigation of the power structures of the art world with an analysis of the intersections of aesthetic and financial value as a shifting ground. His latest inquiry centers on Norton Simon’s acquisitions dating from 1964 through 1981 of Madonna and Child paintings from the medieval period through the 17th century.
Curiously, Lee elides the Madonna throughout “and Child,” though he implies her presence through absence, as he does in the show’s title, or by including the slightest indications of her presence in his re-enacted depictions of the Christ child by drawing only her disembodied hands, while the remaining corpus disappears behind a veil of occlusion, or a fragment of her face that is unceremoniously cut off by the border of his reproduction. This invisible force that supports and presents the child as a symbol of deity, speaks as a metaphor of the “invisible” apparatus of the market and the underlying psychology of valuation as it applies to the acquisition and de-accessioning of art works from Simon’s collection.
Paralleling and entwined with Simon’s mostly unknowable rationale for purchasing and selling individual works is the role that gold played related to the valuation of the original works as currency and a medium for art production. Lee addresses the use of gold in the production of Madonna and Child paintings by collecting and indexing 100 varieties of acrylic gold-colored paint manufactured in various countries. Small piles of the substance dot the floor resembling little dollops of gold excrement. In a much more orderly and refined manner, Lee affixed each of the 100 gold pigments in a 10 by 10 matrix to raw linen canvas, 100 (2016), drawing a tension between the elevated status of the pigment, the valuation of works of art and the gold shit on the floor.
In the middle of it all, a slender white pedestal, 5’1’’ (2016), covered with gold paint dribbled down its sides is a counterpart to the depictions of the Christ child. Scientific speculation has it that the historical Jesus was probably the same height as Lee’s adorned pedestal—5’ 1”.
Kang Seung Lee, “and Child,” January 23 – February 27, 2016 at Commonwealth & Council, 3006 W 7th St #220, Los Angeles, CA 90005, http://www.commonwealthandcouncil.com/.