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Welcome to the 14th installment of the interview series Meet LA’s Art Community. Check out our past interviews here.
This week, we interview Kang Seung Lee, a multidisciplinary artist. For his projects, Lee mines private and public archives (from art collections to libraries) and unearths forgotten or marginalized histories. He has said, “My work comes from the desire to challenge the narrow perspective of the biased and first-world-oriented timeline of history.” Lee has had solo exhibitions at Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles Contemporary Archive, Pitzer College Art Galleries, and other venues around the world. In 2020, his new projects will be exhibited at MMCA, Seoul and the 13th Gwangju Biennale. He received an MFA from the California Institute of the Arts.
Where were you born?
Seoul, Korea. The country was still under a military dictatorship and went through different chapters like democratization and economic development since then. I lived in quite a few places on different continents before moving to the US.
How long have you been living in Los Angeles?
For seven years now. I worked as a trader at a diamond company for several years before going back to art school. At that time I was living and working in Mexico City where I also met my husband Geoff. We moved to Los Angeles when I decided to attend CalArts to get an MFA.
What’s your first memory of seeing art?
As a child, I was exposed to Korean traditional art because my parents sent me to Seo-dang, a traditional school where I learned calligraphy, traditional writing, and painting. The first contemporary artwork that made a big impression on me was Lee Bul’s sculpture and installation — I was in high school and was completely blown away by her work, she is still one of my favorite artists.
Do you like to photograph the art you see? If so, what device do you use to photograph?
I do, and I use my phone.
What was your favorite exhibition in Los Angeles this year?
Candice Lin’s solo exhibition, Natural History: A Half-Eaten Portrait, an Unrecognizable Landscape, a Still, Still Life, recently opened at Pitzer College Art Galleries. The show consists of a full-scale monumental ceramic sarcophagus of the artist with her future cat, and a few other vitrines for colonies of beetles that are living on a diet, including Lin’s dried skin and fingernails. It is extraordinary, a must-see.
What’s the best book you’ve read recently?
Jimmie Durham’s Waiting To Be Interrupted (2013); it’s a collection of Durham’s writings, 1993–2012. I love his rejection of identities as rigid ideas and his disregard for recognition by other people, and often think about his beautiful retrospective show at the Hammer Museum (2017). I am also reading Leslie Dick’s novels from the late ’80s and early ’90s, they are amazing.
Do you prefer to see art alone or with friends?
Both. I love going to exhibitions with friends, seeing art alone without interrupting each one’s experience, and talking about it over coffee or a meal.
What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on a commissioned work by the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul and a new project for this year’s Gwangju Biennale. Both projects are about how to imagine a queer future collectively and in collaboration with many wonderful artists and scholars. In addition, I am working on a collaborative project with my dear friend and colleague Beatriz Cortez for an exhibition at 18th Street Art Center this fall.
What is one accomplishment that you are particularly proud of?
Last year I co-curated an exhibition titled QueerArch in Seoul, which consisted of newly commissioned works by young queer artists based in Seoul. All of the artists used a queer archive called QueerArch (aka Korea Queer Archive) as the catalyst for their work. I am proud that we were able to create a conversation about the invisible memories of queer lives and different generations of artists and activists in Korea through the exhibition.
Where do you turn to for inspiration for your projects?
Almost everything but particularly my generous friends who share their stories from many different times and places.
“Black infants in America are now more than twice as likely to die as white infants—11.3 per 1,000 black babies, compared with 4.9 per 1,000 white babies, according to the most recent government data—a racial disparity that is actually wider than in 1850, 15 years before the end of slavery, when most black women were…
he ownership of images has a long and nuanced legal history, which has evolved dramatically in recent years as cultural standards and photographic technologies have rapidly advanced
The show, which honors the 50th anniversary of an exhibition history once ignored, continues a series of projects documenting Wilmington’s contemporary art scene.
Renty and his daughter Delia. Renty was an enslaved African, kidnapped from the Congo, sold and forced into slave labor on the South Carolina plantation of B.F. Taylor
What is the relation between possessing a person, possessing their image, and dispossessing their progeny
As a scholar of African American history and photography whose work has focused on the status of violent images in museums and archives, I fully support the validity of Ms. Tamara Lanier’s claim and the amicus brief.
Two K-12 art teachers will each receive a $1,000 cash gift and an additional $500 to put toward classroom art supplies. Nominations are due October 31.
The daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor, Delia, Drana, Alfred, Jack, George Fassena, and Jem remained in an unused storage cabinet until 1975, when it was discovered by an employee of the Peabody Museum.
I am writing in support of the amicus curiae brief submitted by Professor Ariella Aïsha Azoulay of Brown University for the full restitution of the daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor and his daughter Delia, currently held by Harvard University, to their familial descendant, Tamara Lanier.
We cannot be indifferent to the long-lasting effects of photography. The photographs at the center of Lanier v. Harvard are relentless in making Renty and Delia Taylor work and perform as slaves. The pain inflicted on them has not ceased. Photography has the capacity to propagate harm, and we have the moral obligation to interrupt…