Saturday, February 22, 2014

Jinju Lee at Doosan Gallery - Remembrance of (Terrible) Things Past

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The current work of Jinju Lee, at Doosan Gallery, derives from the type of lingering and toxic remnants of horrible experiences that remain in our memories and which can reappear, unprovoked or provoked, to wreak temporary emotional pain and harm in our lives.  These are the types of memories that periodically reverberate in us and that we seem helpless to expunge.  Indeed, the artist herself seems to have experienced more than her share of adverse experiences that stay with a person – she was, among other things, literally kidnapped at the age of four.

When we have a direct experience, we may feel various emotional states, we may deal with the experience, and perhaps we might even be changed by the experience.  Most of these experiences, however, get filed away afterwards.  The experiences that serve as the impetus for this show are those that can’t get filed away, for some reason, perhaps because they are so unique and so painful, that there is no real method to adequately deal with them on any level.  They are unresolved and unresolvable – there is no way to avoid the fact that these experiences elicited pain then and that this type of experience will always elicit pain.  It’s as if our bodies want us to continually review these experiences as memories, as if there is some hope of redeeming them…some special insight that might come from going over them one more that if we ever have the same type of experience again (in the real world outside of our memories) we might blithely sail through it unscathed. Yet, the redeeming insight does not seem to come, resolution does not occur and the memory only recedes to come back again on another day to plague us again. 

Lee’s work visually reflects the experiential inner world in which these memories remain and have their own type of reality and effects.  In “A Way to Remember” we see the visual elements that represent this type of reoccurring and unresolvable world of echoing painful experience.  We see what appears to be a type of diorama – the scene, like a painful memory, is squarely cut and boxed off to indicate this is a particular event removed from the flow of time.  Within this block of experience we see little, apparently random items in a bleak, winter landscape.  A half-naked woman lies holding a baby in the snow while two guard dogs stand by – one barking to signal alarm.  The woman, however, upon closer inspection, does not have the top of her skull.  It’s as if she is a collage figure from which a portion of her head has been removed by scissors.  She is substantial and insubstantial at the same time – as are our relived experiences in memory.  We also see that a chair has been dragged in an absurd zig zag pattern. There are flag markers to indicate that some grim and potentially ridiculous process has occurred and is being documented for some type of further investigation.  

I would highly encourage you to visit the gallery itself and see the numerous details in the paintings by Lee.  Knowing the basic background as to the rationale for her work should help make these paintings more meaningful for you when you see them.  As some background on the gallery: the Doosan Gallery is actually owned by a major corporation in Korea that seems to take its social responsibility seriously.  Among other things, they recently donated to needy Koreans and have a residency program in New York City to promote the fine artists that are emerging from Korea these days.  It’s good to see that Doosan is promoting the ‘fine art’ of Korea, a country filled with artistic talent. 

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