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Much meets the eye but even more sings to the spirit in Korean artist Jungjin Lee’s striking photographic landscapes on exhibit at Howard Greenberg Gallery in NYC through December 12, 2015. In her first solo show there, Lee presents photographs from two recent series of commissioned works: Unnamed Road on Israel and the West Bank and Everglades on Florida’s delicate ecosystem. What lies within and below the surface of Lee’s work restores these fiercely contested, diverse lands to a state of grace.
Lee’s meditative approach to each site she photographs achieves full expression through the customized processes she utilizes to craft her work. After capturing a scene on medium format film, she hand-coats light sensitive emulsion onto handmade Korean Mulberry paper to create richly textured prints. Each photograph is scanned so it can be further manipulated and greatly enlarged without sacrificing image resolution or Lee’s carefully applied painterly effects. Her contemplative methodology results in distinctively tactile pieces with dense, low-contrast tonality – a lovely, hushed effect.
Lee’s textured surfaces serve as a unifying filter, one that blurs the cacophony of a war-torn land or the relentless challenges faced by a threatened ecosystem. Her busy surfaces mute and flatten out the images, creating abstractions that highlight Lee’s elegant rendering of positive and negative space and her faithful use of a horizon line to suggest continuity. Metaphor abounds: a sense frenzy in the painterly surface, tension in the tonal contrasts, serenity in the fixed horizon and spirituality in the atmospheric clouds.
Evidence of the human hand upon the earth is subjugated, as blown-up roads and pock-marked walls appear as relics on a stilled earth. Ancient trees gaze out to a distant horizon, standing sentry over a felled comrade in a testament to resilience. A lone palm tree endures, pitted beside a monolithic wall impinging on its natural territory. Lee’s images transcend the political realities on the ground, insisting on the triumph of beauty. She elevates her landscapes to an interpretive dance that is visceral and visual, stirring and tranquil and, above all, timeless.
For more information on this exhibit, go to: http://www.howardgreenberg.com/
Feature Image: “Unnamed Road 060, 2011” by Jungjin Lee (courtesy of the artist and Howard Greenberg Gallery, NYC).