Commonwealth and Council

Absence without leave

Kang Seung Lee


Poof—you are neither here nor there, but there remains proof you are still everywhere. Today and tomorrow, we touch the residue of your being once again, as we did yesterday. Together we find you in-between us, ours to keep.

Commonwealth and Council presents the first installment of a two-part exhibition of new work by Kang Seung Lee which challenges how bodies (as marked by difference) are represented in moments of pandemic and social unrest. Both “Absence without leave” and “Leave of absence” (forthcoming) deploy the touch of the magic wand to obfuscate the human body prior to rendering the figureless tableaux in graphite.

“Absence without leave” begins with a selection of iconic representations of male bodies in public and domestic spaces documented by photographers. In some photographs, the bodies remain anonymous (work by Alvin Baltrop, Leonard Fink, and William Yang); others profess an intimacy with their subject (portrait of David Wojnarowicz by Peter Hujar and Martin Wong by Peter Bellamy) or are examples of the artist’s oeuvre (Isaac Julien’s film noir staircase and Robert Mapplethorpe’s self-portrait).

Installed in the front room of the gallery, Lee’s work employs various display methods: scanned and enlarged photographs of drawings, printed fabric draped in the form of a chair, a framed drawing hung on a mural. Each image conjures the departed through absence, alluding to the interstitiality of presence.

Kang Seung Lee is a multidisciplinary artist who was born in South Korea and now lives and works in Los Angeles. Lee has had solo exhibitions at Pitzer College Art Galleries, Pitzer College (Claremont, CA), Los Angeles Contemporary Archive (Los Angeles, CA), Centro Cultural Border (Mexico City), and group exhibitions at Weatherspoon Art Museum at UNCG (NC), SOMArts (San Francisco, CA), Raymond Gallery at Art Center College of Design (Pasadena, CA). This summer, Lee will be an artist-in-residence at Artpace in San Antonio. This is his second exhibition with Commonwealth and Council. Lee received an MFA from the California Institute of the Arts.