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Jae Won Lee: Intangible Landscapes

by Gerry Craig
Object III Frail Hope, Internal Distance, 2002. Porcelain and fiilament, 8 x .16 x .6 in.

In the frozen silence of a Michigan winter, life waits below ground, breathing under ice. The vast solitary landscape parallels Jae Won Lee’s reductive art-making methodology, stripping color to subtle modulations of white, nuances that punctuate the charged stillness. Five years of winter in a horizontality so unlike her native Korea nourishes contemplation, complex thoughts of the interior life expressed simply—like listening to someone breathe.

The great beauty in Lee’s ceramics and stitched drawings is their metaphysical strength, the stripping away of extraneous detail so the bump of a paper scar or the shrunken edge of a tile is imbued with potent meaning and mystical tendencies. This concentration through minimal means is influenced by her Asian heritage and deep understanding of contemporary art, but her subjects do not come from Minimalism. She has a Romantic’s reverence for nature, but the implications created by her abstracted, emotive forms have a greater affinity to the philosophies of Nietzsche and Schopenhauer than to the Modernist doctrines of Donald Judd and his contemporaries.

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