Critical Reflections: Jungjin Lee: Wind Series

Bellas Artes<br /> 653 Canyon Road, Santa Fe

Date July 31, 2008 at 10:00 PM

Author Diane Armitage

Publication THE magazine

Categories Performing Arts

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Many of the photographs in Jungjin Lee's current exhibition are images taken in New Mexico-a defunct school bus stranded out in the middle of a field in Taos; an old ruin whose ceiling is open to the sky; a trailer with a stag head over the door and next to a vintage pick-up truck; flea market drapery blowing in the wind. Some of the images were also photographed on the California coast and some in Korea, but they all partake of the same mood and tonal range, and all the work can be traced back to Lee's essential preoccupation with abstraction.

It is as if Lee brought each image into being from the depths of her meditation practice and, as a result, each photograph carries the weight of a perfectly distilled moment in time with no unnecessary emotional burdens attached. These images are not about projected longings so much as spiritual embodiments-as if the things of this world, isolated and highlighted in a respectful way, can be passports to expanded awareness.

One needs to try to understand that an abandoned school bus in Northern New Mexico has just as much to say about Lee's mind as an old house in Korea with its pointed blackened roof. Repeated patterns in the landscape, geometric forms, stain marks on a wall that look like Abstract Expressionist drips, pieces of hanging fabric-each image is a mental construct that cares less about the thing itself and more about the relationships of dark to light, vertical plane to diagonal line, textured surface to flat expanse of sky-abstract relationships that evoke a certain mood, a certain state of mind.

Lee's Pagoda series is perhaps one of her best known, and it's hard not to love that work. There are two photographs from that series in this show. Lee creates vertical mirror images of the pagodas on mulberry paper so they seem like renderings of floating sculpture made from enigmatic forms. Here Lee's focus on abstraction is most direct-the forms transcend their original identity with ease and exist in another dimension as objects for meditation. Lee's photographs, whether of cultural artifacts or natural phenomena, constitute a personal search for equivalents. She doesn't really offer the viewer documents; she takes the viewer on a journey into zones that exist inside the visible-a series of tightly compressed experiences where the alchemy of Lee's process is joined to her selective spiritual compass. What you see is only the beginning of what you get.

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