BLACK SUN by MIRE LEE at NEW MUSEUM [from 20230629 to 20230917]

[Photos: Dario Lasagni]

Mire Lee (b. 1988, Seoul, South Korea) creates ambitious, multi-faceted installations populated by kinetic sculptures made from organic and synthetic materials, which collide, fuse, and self-destruct. Typically composed of low-tech motors, steel rods, and PVC hoses filled with grease, glycerin, silicone, oil, or clay slip, her animatronic apparatuses resemble both homemade machines and human entrails; the viscous liquids that slosh through them could easily be mistaken for blood, saliva, or bodily waste. Provocative and unsettling, Lee’s theatrical endeavors produce a deeply psychological resonance for viewers, establishing how powerfully the commonplace status of her sculptural materials can give compl ex feelings a corporeal form.

Titled after Black Sun (1987)—a study of depression and melancholia by the Bulgarian-French feminist and philosopher Julia Kristeva—Lee’s New Museum installation debuts a new body of kinetic sculptures and fabric works in an architectural environment specially designed for this gallery. In Kristeva’s text, she describes the black sun of melancholia as an “an abyss of sorrow,” akin to a hole, a vortex, or a chasm. Led by concerns of space, atmosphere, and materials, the tactile qualities of Lee’s newest work reflect Kristeva’s analogy, taking the form of a psychically charged structure, which like a hole, can shrink and expand, or hold and expel.

In recent years, Lee has created environments that produce profoundly physical experiences, ranging from dry and rattling mechanistic atmospheres to carcass-like objects that spurt, drip, and ooze mysterious fluids, or others that transform their enclosures over time. Drawing references from architecture, horror, pornography, and cybernetics, and evoking bodily functions, technological transformation, and environmental decay, Lee offers an intuitive means to describe properties that persist in a post-human world: humor, desire, abjection, anxiety, and revulsion, among other states. Staged with churning sculptures constructed from clay, ceramic, cement, latex, and silicone, and walls lined with clay-dipped fabric, “Black Sun,” too, is an assault on the senses. The smell of wet clay, the mixture of hard and soft material, the sound of dripping glycerin and silicone oil, the whirring of peristaltic pumps and motors, and the thrashing of machinery mix with the heavy air of humidity created by steam machines. To Lee, the process of creating these sensory spaces attempts to “convert the abstract to the visceral.”

“Mire Lee: Black Sun” is curated by Gary Carrion-Murayari, Kraus Family Senior Curator, and Madeline Weisburg, Curatorial Assistant.

This exhibition is part of a three-year initiative, launched in collaboration with Kvadrat, to premiere ambitious new productions by emerging artists.

Support for this exhibition is provided by the Toby Devan Lewis Emerging Artists Exhibitions Fund.

Artist commissions are generously supported by the Neeson / Edlis Artist Commissions Fund.

We gratefully acknowledge the International Leadership Council of the New Museum.

Generous support is provided by: Samsung Foundation of Culture, Mondriaan Fund, Liza Mauer, Abbie and Patrick Dean, Miyoung Lee and Neil Simpkins, Salle Yoo and Jeff Gray. 

This program is supported as part of the Dutch Culture USA program by the Consulate General of the Netherlands in New York.

This exhibition is made possible with the support of Ministry of Culture, Sports & Tourism of Korea, Korea Arts Management Service, and the grant program Fund for Korean Art Abroad.

Additional support is provided by: AHL Foundation, Dr. Disaphol Chansiri, Evan Chow, Peter Kahng, Lisa Kim and Eunu Chun, Younghee Kim-Wait, Laurie Wolfert and Rosina Lee Yue. 

Special thanks to the Artemis Council of the New Museum.

Thanks to Tina Kim Gallery, New York.

Education and community programs for our Summer Exhibitions are supported, in part, by the American Chai Trust.

Support for the publication has been provided by the J. McSweeney and G. Mills Publications Fund at the New Museum.

[Text: New Museum]

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