Artist Mire Lee’s works are far from picturesque or beautiful. They have a bizarre and grotesque appearance that evokes feelings of disgust. But because of this, it is difficult to look away from Lee’s works. Some of her works drip wet slime as if an animal’s intestines were hung from an iron bar, while others resemble a desolate, abandoned construction site with the torn fabric remaining on a steel frame, reminiscent of a battered whale with only its bones remaining.
One of Lee’s works traveled to Venice last year to participate in the main exhibition of the 59th Venice Biennale, The Milk of Dreams. Another large installation piece went to Yeongdo, Busan, one of the sites of the Busan Biennale 2022. This year, Lee’s works are scheduled to head to New York City.
The New Museum, a contemporary art museum in New York, will hold a solo exhibition by Mire Lee from June 29 to September 17, 2023. This will be Lee’s first solo museum exhibition in the US, and it will feature a site-specific installation that responds to the architectural environment of the gallery on the fourth floor of the museum.
Through her works, Lee compels us to reflect on the coexistence of opposite beings and states, such as organisms and machines, the fear and beauty of the finitude of life, and strength and weakness. Using a motor or pumping system, she adds glycerin, silicone, oil, and other materials likely to be used on construction sites, such as cement, resin, iron rods, and PVC hoses. Lee also adds video works or creates sculptural works with text. Her works are known for their animatronic sculptures that operate like living organisms or machines with biological functions, evoking a sense of tension.
The exhibition space also plays an important role in Lee’s artworks. By grouping together objects that evoke a cold and dry sentiment with abstract but intuitive forms in an exhibition space, Lee attempts to emphasize tactile sensation and a sense of extreme tension.
For example, Landscape with Many Holes: Skins of Yeongdong Sea (2022), which was featured in the Busan Biennale 2022, was a case in which the artist used the frame of an abandoned factory as part of the artwork. The large-scale installation work, reminiscent of the scenery of the Yeongdo shipyard, has shabby construction screens hung on the steel frame, which flutters along with the wind blowing in Yeongdo. The work went through Typhoon Hinnamnor in September but was not restored; rather, it remained as it was after the typhoon, reflecting Yeongdo’s natural conditions and the shipbuilding industry’s working environment.
The artist also metaphorically expresses the relationship between beings that are considered subordinate subjects in our society. In the same way that degraded women in patriarchal societies are sometimes portrayed as monsters such as Medusa and witches, Lee’s work also reflects the grotesque images that our society projects onto beings considered antisocial, abnormal, or socially underprivileged.
Mire Lee (b. 1988) was born in Korea, majored in sculpture and media art at Seoul National University, and currently lives and works in both Seoul and Amsterdam. Most recently, she had solo exhibitions at Tina Kim Gallery (New York, 2022), MMK Frankfurt (Frankfurt, 2022), Kunstmuseum Den Haag (The Hague, 2022), and Art Sonje Center (Seoul, 2022).
Artist Mire Lee’s works have been featured in a number of internationally renowned art magazines and information platforms, including Art News, Art in America, Artsy, Ocula, and ArtAsiaPacific. Frieze, a London-based art magazine, also covered an interview with Lee.
Mire Lee’s solo exhibition at the New Museum is curated by Kraus Family Senior Curator Gary Carrion-Murayari and Curatorial Assistant Madeline Weisburg.