Taking inspiration from two significant works from the Museum’s Korean collection of 19th-century Joseon dynasty art, Steven Young Lee reconsiders these objects with a contemporary twist. For the APEX exhibition series, Lee visited the Museum this past summer to research objects in the Korean collection and specifically to focus on Dragon Jarand Tiger and Magpie, a common theme in Korean folk painting. At once fascinated by the excellence of these objects, Lee overturns these pristine examples in his own practice—perfection becomes failure, classical motifs become popular characters, and elegance resides with kitsch. They are objects in navigating Lee’s own experience in Korean-American, cross-cultural identity and upbringing.
In the context of these new bodies of work, Lee will be adding an older installation from 2005, of a pagoda of rabbits. The work stems from Lee’s evolving awareness of his place in the Chinese zodiac: Having first believed himself to be born under the zodiac sign of a rabbit, only to learn in his visits in East Asia that he is really a tiger, Lee turns the imagery into a preoccupation of form—a tower of many taunting rabbits.
Based in Helena, Montana, Lee has been the resident artist director of the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts. He is represented by the Duane Reed Gallery, Ferrin Contemporary, and The Archie Bray Foundation Gallery.