Monday, May 20, 2024

Dreaming within the Afternoon Gentle

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Hannah Lee, “Walkthrough” (2023), oil on panel, 48 x 36 inches (all photos courtesy Entrance Gallery)

In January 2022, I concluded my evaluate of Hannah Lee’s debut exhibition, First Language at Entrance (December 2, 2021–January 30, 2022), with this commentary: 

This is among the strongest debuts I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing in years. The apparent effort that has gone into every portray, together with the artist’s disinterest in creating a signature fashion, conveys an ambition and confidence that speaks effectively for Lee’s future. 

For these causes, I went to see her second exhibition at Entrance, Hannah Lee: Exterior, just a few days after it opened. I used to be not disenchanted. Of the six work and one hybrid painting-sculpture, which features a shelf and mirror, the biggest work, “Walkthrough” (2023), measures 48 by 36 inches. Whereas the press launch contextualizes this portray — “a brand new tenant viewing the empty condominium subsequent door to her house studio” — I noticed the scene of two staff standing by the home windows of this empty condominium as being in dialogue with Gustave Caillebotte’s “The Flooring Planers” (1875), which is among the first instances a contemporary painter depicted city staff.

Caillebotte’s portray portrays three staff with naked, muscular torsos, two of whom are speaking to one another. They’re heroic varieties reasonably than people. In Lee’s portray, the older, barely hunched employee, framed by the window behind him, appears to be imploring the youthful man, who’s going through away. This deadlock invitations the viewer’s hypothesis. We’re witnessing a second of pressure between individualized however nameless males of various generations. 

On the identical time, Lee’s portray speaks to the upgrading of tenement flats, and the following gentrification. As with Caillebotte’s three staff, the 2 males standing on this modest condominium more than likely couldn’t afford to hire or purchase it. Lee devotes her consideration to the afternoon gentle diffusing within the room, the uneven coloring of the floorboards, the pale blue and brown partitions, and the yellow janitorial mop bucket and dustpan. Her want for verisimilitude in  specializing in the instruments and staff rejects moralizing or social messages with out changing into didactic.

In “Breakfast” (2023), which measures 33 by 33 inches, Lee depicts 10 folks seated round a round restaurant counter, with different diners seen on the left aspect. Lee’s fantastically noticed gathering of White diners defines a world that isn’t racially various. It shares one thing with Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks” (1942), an iconic view of 4 alienated folks in an city diner late at evening. Nonetheless, the variations are extra telling than the similarities. In Lee’s portray it’s morning and breakfast is being served; the round counter evokes a imaginative and prescient of camaraderie. The perspective is from contained in the restaurant, of somebody seated at a desk, reasonably than from the road. All the particulars culminate in questions, beginning with who’s a part of the circle and who is just not. 

Hannah Lee, “Breakfast” (2023), oil on panel, 33 x 33 inches

There’s a gentleness to the portray and the artist’s devotion to particulars that invitations viewers to contemplate this and different questions, and to look at what’s and isn’t current. Will there at all times be outsiders? What would an built-in society appear like? Has such a state ever been achieved? 

What connects “Walkthrough” and “Breakfast” to the unpopulated work “Exterior” (2023) and “Studio Gentle” (each 2023) is the artist’s preternatural recognition of the connection between open and closed areas, in addition to the best way each synthetic and pure gentle inflect surfaces and atmosphere. In “Exterior,” Lee depicts a street-level view of two giant frosted home windows in a contemporary constructing that extends in diagonally in from the left edge. Meticulously painted, as is the whole lot in her work, the uniformity of the constructing’s brick floor is generic and chilly. Elements of two second-floor home windows are seen. We glimpse somebody standing in a salmon-pink room by means of one; a greenish curtain partially covers the opposite. It’s alleged to be the right colour for cozy basements.

It’s the two giant, an identical street-level home windows that show what Lee can do with paint. Faint reflections of sunshine from passing vehicles are seen on their surfaces, in addition to a diffuse gentle that appears to return from inside. The reflections are so convincingly painted that I discovered myself watching one thing I won’t have seen in actual life. By her consideration to element, lighting, and the colour of the second-floor rooms, Lee transforms a banal view into one thing uncanny. Nothing within the portray appears compelled; it’s as if she noticed this scene in a dream. 

“Studio Gentle” (2023), which measures eight by eight inches, takes Lee’s curiosity in gentle to a different degree. Working in a tonal palette of bluish-white to pale blue, tempered with whitish orange, Lee depicts a disorienting perspective, cropping the view in order that nothing is sort of clear. We’re not even positive the place we’re standing within the room. I used to be fully mesmerized by this portray. 

By way of each composition and material, Lee doesn’t repeat herself. I sense that her investigations are motivated by a spread of preoccupations, and that she has little interest in packaging them. I imagine her largest aim is creative freedom, and I applaud her for that. 

Hannah Lee, “Exterior” (2023), oil on panel, 30 x 24 inches
Hannah Lee, “Studio Gentle” (2023), oil on panel, 8 x 8 inches

Hannah Lee: Exterior continues at Entrance (48 Ludlow Avenue, Decrease East Facet, Manhattan) by means of June 4. The exhibition was organized by the gallery.

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