Content-Aware Wall Label (after Baldessari)
Dora Budor hires professional stunt double Helga Wretman in a series of three action packed videos and co-related paintings. The main character finds herself repeatedly in dangerous, heart-pounding scenarios: a wilderness chase scene, a rooftop fight, and a car chase. All the while, she carries a newly stretched canvas that becomes damaged by her struggles to escape an invisible assailant. Employing the labor of a hired stunt double and utilizing the tropes of Hollywood action cinema, each of the videos is articulated as the making-of footage to final pieces. The paintings themselves become one of a kind “screen-matched” props, gradually corrupted as they are burned, ripped, and soiled. Incorporating both A and B-roll footage, objects are indexically marked by violence, while characters double each other in fragmented narratives.
The perpetual state of anxiety and escape from a dominant surveillant class, as deployed in many recent blockbuster hits, is extracted from its oppositional means and restaged as a form of contemporary artistic production—impelling emergency, violence and vulnerability as generative forces. There is no other place or exit; the continuous loop of the action scenes manifests a recursive meditation on confluent acts of violence, labor, and production. The objective insufficiency of the vacant canvases fosters their emergence as ciphers for concomitant subjective lacks. As narratives collide, produce and inscribe these processes for the camera, anticipation of the canvas as a site of personal investitures succumbs to the logics of automation and repetition, while body doubling links a schizoid reality with the accelerating fragmentation of virtual and real.
- Alex Ross
Painting is a strange thing to do but so is everything else.
Austin Lee’s paintings are familiar, yet strange, otherworldly, yet immersive. While they are often figurative, there is a level of abstraction that takes the simplest and most recognizable of forms into another space, disassociated from the tangible. We find ourselves looking at figures, shapes, and colors that hover between the opposing forces from which they are brought forth, namely, the physical and the digital, representative and abstract, graphical and human. These binaries become fluid through the contrasting qualities that comprise Lee’s paintings: stark and supple, opaque and lucid, stable and fleeting.
Lee often begins his process by using an iPad to make digital drawings. Drawing, perhaps one of the quickest ways for an artist to translate a thought into something visual, is made almost immediate by sketching with the iPad. Drawing and erasing become swiping and undoing, enabling the ability to endlessly render and alter images. This method of working is inherently more visceral than analog drawing techniques, in that the hand is actually freer, unrestrained, and spontaneous, yielding entirely expressive results from what seem to be the simplest of lines. Mistakes, chance, and the accidental thus become central to Lee’s playful and curious explorations on and through the screen, and subsequently on canvas.
Lee’s paintings exhibit these very qualities, as he translates the uninhibited and intuitive process of gestural mark-making from one media to another. Both modes of working capture the quickness and impulsiveness of his movements; yet painting instills the process with slowness, facilitating moments of reflection and self-awareness, while at the same time opening up another channel for exploring the intentional and the incidental.
It has been noted that Lee’s paintings look very different when viewed on the screen versus when seen in person. This is necessarily true for many, if not all, art “objects” today, which inevitably end up online in some form or another. Yet, the fact that there is such a distinct contrast between the screen image versus the physical object evinces the unique quality Lee captures in his paintings. Living through the screen has become so familiar that it has almost become an afterthought because of its ubiquity. Lee revitalizes our awareness of the screen, creating an almost ineffable plane of floating forms that invites immersive and introspective viewing. Ultimately, Lee’s paintings reflect a new sort of visuality, elucidating our technologically informed way of thinking, seeing, and being in the world.
-Kerry Doran, New York, January 2014