Selected works by Paul Lee

Paul Lee
Untitled (Can Sculpture) x3 views

2007

Soda cans, magnifying glass, string, paint, Xerox, socks, coal, light bulb

32 x 12 x 19 cm

Robert Raucshenberg’s work and biography is often discussed as a contextual precedent for Paul Lee’s sculptures. Raucshenberg’s ‘combines’ were assemblages of objects and paintings that pioneered cross-media and pop art, and his personal relationship with Jasper Johns is a well cited reference point in queer history. Using everyday objects such as soda cans, light bulbs, and socks, Lee’s Untitled (Can Sculpture) series explores the relationships between materials and their coded cultural and sexual meanings.

Paul Lee
Untitled (Can Sculpture) x3 views

2007

Soda cans, magnifying glass, string, paint, Xerox, light bulbs

32 x 12 x 19 cm

Each of the pieces in Untitled (Can Sculpture) begins with a soda can with a photocopy of a young man’s face pasted over the label. The image is taken from a 70s naturist magazine and was chosen because the boy’s strong classical features exemplify archetypical ideals of beauty and youth. In this work, a red light bulb is embedded inside a torn can to denote sexual attraction, its seedy glow visible through the peep hole opening of another. Desire and fixation are amplified through a small magnifying lens which focuses on the bulb’s phallic screw-grooved base.

Paul Lee
Untitled (Can Sculpture) x3 views

2007

Soda cans, sock, string, paint, Xerox, magnifying glass, coal, light bulb

32 x 12 x 19 cm

In Untitled (Can Sculpture) Lee’s materials take on a performative dimension, their readymade shapes and loaded meanings creating an image with evocative narrative innuendo. Here a crunched soda can, magnifying glass, and a lump of coal dangle above a man’s face like a crude appendage; the lens is fixed on the face as libidinous source. Hanging from the portrait, a well-worn sock – the ‘handy’ accessory of teen boys everywhere – limply dangles with the promise of polishing a diamond from the hunk of rough.

Paul Lee
Untitled (Can Sculpture) x3 views

2007

Soda can, magnifying glass, string, paint, Xerox, sea sponge, ink

32 x 12 x 19 cm

The tactile quality of Lee’s materials provoke an intensified mode of viewing. Their familiar textures are set in jarring juxtaposition: the cool smoothness of metal, rough squishiness of sponge, and dull softness of paper, triggering a longing of touch in physical memory. Through this sensual fetishisation of everyday consumer objects Lee’s sculptures explore the nature of personal identity, their disposable nature highlighting the ephemeral transience and guilty pleasures of desire.

Paul Lee
Untitled (Can Sculpture) x3 views

2007

Soda cans, magnifying glass, string, paint, Xerox, light bulb

32 x 12 x 19 cm

Photocopies, light bulbs and magnifying lenses appear throughout Lee’s Untitled (Can Sculpture) series. With these materials, Lee explores the nature of the photographic image. In this work the power of a picture to create a strong somatic and psychological reaction is dissembled through the devices of image production: a photo that has been created with a lens and light is viewed through both a light bulb and looking glass. By reducing a sensual image to its bare physical mechanics, Lee illustrates a kind of technical porn, exposing both instinctive attraction and its emotional detachment.

Paul Lee
Untitled (Can Sculpture) x3 views

2007

Soda cans, bath towel, ink, magnifying glass, string, paint, xerox, light bulb

32 x 12 x 19 cm

The sense of haptic memory is overwhelmingly in every aspect of Lee’s sculptures. Here soft drink cans and bath towelling evoke a lingering evidence of intimacy: saliva on lip, damp scent of sweat; while the translucent and swollen light bulbs suggest something that was once ‘turned on’. Awkwardly bound together by the frayed remnants of a shoe string, Lee’s assemblage conveys the fragility and pathos of lost love and its detritus in this precariously balanced composition.

Paul Lee
Untitled (Can Sculpture) x3 views

2007

Soda cans, bath towel, ink, magnifying glass, string, xerox, light bulb, coal

32 x 14 x 20 cm

Hanging from the central can, two black and white socks frame a young man’s angelic face in a yin and yang embrace, their polarities of colour echoed in the brick of coal and light bulb which anchor the piece at top and bottom. This visual tension is compounded by the optical disc dangling by a bit of crudely tied string from the base of the can. Intensely magnifying a view of a lighting filament to microcosmic proportions, it creates a mystical sense of wonder and meditation.

Paul Lee
Untitled (Yellow Tether)

2007

Plaster cast rock, bath towel, cotton thread, ink

100 x 130 x 22 cm
Paul Lee
Untitled (Stairs With Cement Towel)

2007

Bath towel, cotton thread, wood glue, paint, wood, cement, ink

85 x 64.5 x 75 cm
Paul Lee
Untitled (3 Lit Podiums, Primary)

2007

Bath towel, sacks, cotton thread, wood, paint, light bulbs, electrical fixtures, ink

Approx. 94 x 100 x 92 cm
Paul Lee
Untitled (Cement Towel)

2008

Sculpture - bath towels, ultracal plaster/cement mix

109.2 x 36.8 x 25.4 cm

Articles

PAUL LEE, "RESERVOIR". REVIEW BY JOSHUA MACK


Paul Lee's beautiful if uneven show is a meditation on loneliness, vulnerability, and how the erotic and emotional needs of the individual are often subsumed by social, religious and political demands. Yet Lee holds out hope; according to a handout, the "reservoir" of the title refers to the endless store of love in the human spirit.

Lee constructs small sculptures from painted soda cans, washcloths, lightbulbs, coal and string; he hangs worn, dyed towels on the wall, and builds three-dimensional collages from photographs of boys' faces. Throughout, the clandestine desire of the love that dare not speak its name is almost crushingly obvious. The towels evoke bathhouses, as well as the yearning of queer boys covertly observing bodies in locker rooms. Cans printed with images of male faces are positioned so they seem to glimpse each other obliquely. The collages suggest the cultural taboo of men looking at men, with marbles in place of eyes and faces fractured into multiple planes.

Source: timeout.com


ART IN REVIEW; PAUL LEE


Not to exaggerate the comparison, but it is possible to see the small assemblages in Paul Lee's first New York solo show as heirs to Robert Rauschenberg's early sculptural ''combines'' of the 1950s. The work of both artists takes debased found objects -- junk -- as primary material, and uses that material to create layered, enigmatic meanings. A big difference is that a homoerotic content suppressed in Mr. Rauschenberg's assemblage is the primary content of Mr. Lee's.

Many of the show's small sculptures are clusters of half-crushed beer or soda cans, each wrapped with a photograph of a young man's face in place of a label. On the gallery floor, a lighted blue lightbulb is nested among lumps of coal. A red bulb, attached to the wall, serves as a rack for a towel. Other towels hang, spread out, nearby. Their geometric color patterns make them look like soiled, frayed abstract paintings, but also like semaphore flags, each with a different message.

Gay coding, through dress, language and behavior, has long been a protective necessity, a cultural binder and a source of pleasure, in art no less than in life. Mr. Lee, born in London and in his early 30s, explores such coding, and gently prods its mechanisms without fully exposing and demythologizing them. He gives us the props associated with certain erotically charged environments -- back rooms, baths, parks -- but also preserves a quality of hiddenness, of mystery.

Source: nytimes.com