PRESS RELEASE – Katherine Lee – Maps, Doors and Coffins: Locating Absence

TAI Modern is pleased to announce its upcoming exhibition, Maps, Doors and Coffins: Locating Absence, a body of work by Katherine Lee that explores relationships between location, presence and perception.


Katherine Lee’s evocative new work extends beyond the oil paintings she is known for and encompasses hand-crafted objects. Since her last exhibition at TAI Modern, Lee developed the carpentry techniques necessary to craft traditional paneled doors from raw lumber and build classic wooden coffins with simple tools. She now presents a series of paintings and monotypes in conjunction with these doors and coffins. Each element offers its own investigation into the intimate, the imagined and the abstract and each plays off the others, instigating a conceptual provocation and inviting a broad spectrum of interpretation and emotion from the viewer.


Lee’s compositions feature short descriptive phrases or words acting as place names, such as “Parking Lot,” “The Edge of Reason,” and “Blood Stain.” The text appears to recede from the viewer into the grassy ground or to emanate from the dark as house numbers and street names within a nocturnal urban landscape. The work conjures the personal, then disappears it, before bubbling to a more universally familiar sense of location and saudade.


This discovery and erasure is made grandiose and humorous in the coffins she has made for each of the five members of her immediate family. They are crafted with a commitment to fine woodworking while avoiding any sentimental flourishes save for a sparkling skull adorned with flowers––an image so rock and roll, a biker’s funeral comes to mind. The coffins are not literal vessels of interment, but physical expressions of absence and geographies of conceptual loss. They are metaphors for the intricate and macabre scaffolding the psyche assembles when confronting abstractions of love, family, memory and time.


On one of the doors, behind which might be found a private detective or dentist’s office, is a reference from a Don DeLillo novel, Underworld. “Museum of Dark Forces” it reads, hinting at something frightening and grand. Language in Lee’s work is holographic, standing in for uber-dimensional worlds just out of view. Dark humor is a tool used to confound banality and reveal the apparatus of perception.


A resident of Santa Fe, Lee was born in Des Moines, Iowa and grew up in the rural Midwest. She received her B.F.A.from the College of Santa Fe in 2008. The artist was prominently featured in curator Laura P. Della Monica’s recently published book, Painted Landscapes: Contemporary Views. Her work has been exhibited at the New Mexico Museum of Art (Santa Fe, NM) and the Harwood Museum of Art (Taos, NM).