Commonwealth and Council

and Child

Kang Seung Lee


Commonwealth and Council presents Kang Seung Lee: and Child, a new body of work that surveys the verisimilitude of ‘gold’ currently on the market and the American industrialist and art collector Norton Simon’s history of acquiring and deaccessing artwork on the theme of ‘Madonna and Child.’ 

Revealing a strong personal penchant for the sacred theme, Simon amassed 48 European renditions of the iconic ‘Madonna and Child’ from the Medieval period through the Renaissance and into the 17th century. He purchased his first exemplar, Albrecht Dürer’s Madonna by the Wall, in 1964 and his last, Nicolas Poussin’s The Holy Family with the Infant Saint John the Baptist and Saint Elizabeth, in 1981. Based on this public record of Simon’s acquisitions and deacquisitions, Lee postulates a differentiating index that highlights the collector’s fervor by isolating and focusing solely on the ‘Infant Child.’ Lee’s 48 colored pencil renderings of the ‘Infant Child’ emphasize the supernatural, otherworldly qualities of the man-child embodied within, transfiguring his physiognomy from a state of innocuous inertia to one of heightened alterity.

Starting in the 14th century, smaller-scaled artworks (predominantly religious paintings illustrating Biblical narratives, including the life of Christ) became available to private collectors belonging to the merchant class. Gold played two key roles during this time: it was both a medium of artistic production (gold leaf) and currency in the marketplace (18K Italian coins). As a symbolic gesture of commerce and devotion, Lee collects and samples an array of gold acrylic paint of various grades (craft, artist, studio, professional), material qualities (iridescent, antique, pearl, etc.), and countries of manufacture (Canada, USA, France, Germany, Australia, UK, etc.). Excreted from each tube or vessel, hundreds of globs of gold paint become abject specimens of bodily transgressions. Variant samplings of opulent dollops and splatters form a grid on linen canvas, sprawl across the floor, and spew down a plinth 5 feet 1 inch tall. In this way they form a procession of value, challenge our perception of preciousness, and dissolve clear distinctions between the sacred and the profane.

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 and group exhibitions at Pitzer College Art Galleries, Pitzer College (CA), Centro Cultural Border (Mexico City), the Weatherspoon Art Museum (NC) and SOMArts, San Francisco (CA), Raymond Gallery, Art Center College of Design, Pasadena (CA) among many others. His catalogue Untitled (Artspeak?) was recently published by Pitzer College Art Galleries, and upcoming solo exhibitions include COVERS at LACA (Los Angeles Contemporary Archive) and Untitled (Artspeak?) at Turchin Center for the Visual Arts (NC). He received an MFA from the California Institute of the Arts.