Written by Lauren Dugdale for THE ARTISTS FORUM MAGAZINE
Edited by Amos White V for THE ARTISTS FORUM, INC
Photos: Courtesy of Jaehyo Lee
5 out of 5 stars
JAEHYO LEE AT CYNTHIA-REEVES
NEW YORK, NY (February 19, 2010) In a city where concrete is our foliage and lakes are formed and forged by leaking fire hydrants, Korean-born sculptor Jaehyo Lee has delivered Mother Nature to our shores. Starting February 20th until March 27th, Lee’s work breathes in a must-see sculpture show at the Cynthia-Reeves Gallery in Chelsea.
Chestnut trees, fallen leaves and boxwood branches are among the organic materials Lee harvests, sands, burns, bends, saws, twists and seasons with stainless-steel bolts and nails to create wall-based works and objects intended for use as functional art. Nature is both Lee’s pen and his paper. The result is craftsmanship that reads with a sense of wonder, exerts undeniable power and majesty, humbles the eyes while igniting the spirit — all while avoiding ostentation or the intention of ego. It is as though Lee has sculpted the earth, itself.
Marie Goble of Cynthia-Reeves says Lee’s “most spectacular works incorporate highly-burnished, bent steel nails that form complex, articulated patterns against the velvet black of charred wood”— a process the gallery deems “astoundingly difficult.” Taking in one of these pieces for just a few seconds, it is hard to disagree. The nails and bolts are considerately fixed into charred wood, bent and oriented every which way, sometimes turned on their sides, and then polished again and again to create light-reflecting texture like an army of stars assembled on a night sky. The question is begged: How was this created? Lee’s current show features nearly a dozen such pieces, from marvelous spherical chairs made for sitting (as if by magic) to an eleven-and-a-half foot hanging rectangle and a towering pillar studded with steel letters from the English alphabet.
Lee’s supernatural gift for texture and finish extends to his work with wood. He has, what Jonathan Goodman of Sculpture magazine calls, “a sense of finish and nearly obsessive treatment of surface that help him focus on exteriors that nevertheless radiate inner energies.” Cynthia-Reeves includes many of Lee’s best wood sculptures: a big cone pine chair, a standing chestnut donut, and a half-circle table, to name but a few. All are sturdy in body and silky in skin.
And rising from the center of the gallery like the ridge of a mountain or the back of a great caterpillar is a 36-foot-long spine of oak branches that Lee has sawed, sanded and arranged with the careful hand and eye that make him both artist and human. The spine is magnificent. It is fixed to the floor, unmoving. But, like the rest of Lee’s work, it seems to move a great deal.
Lee’s work is included in the permanent collections of the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Korea, the Hyogo Prefecture Museum of Art in Japan, the Busan Metropolitan Art Museum in South Korea, and the Osaka Contemporary Art Center in Japan. Most recently, his work was included in the Museum of Art and Design’s inaugural exhibition in their new space at Columbus Circle.
Now you can see Lee at the Cynthia-Reeves Gallery until March 27. The gallery is located at 535 West 24th Street, on the 2nd Floor, and is open Tuesday – Saturday, from 10 AM to 6 PM. For more information on Jaehyo Lee’s show, please call 212-714-0044 or visit cynthia-reeves.com.
Lauren Dugdale is proud to call New York City home. She works in Public Relations, representing a variety of consumer clients and the Olympus Visionary Program, a group of 11 talented still photographers who shoot exclusively with Olympus E-System cameras and lenses. Off the clock, Lauren can be found with a camera, pen or coffee in hand–often all three. She enjoys French film, Swedish music and dogs from any country.