Davin Kyle Knight / Michelle Jane Lee: Proximate Mediations
Davin Kyle Knight
The iconographic import of abstract art has undergone a series of diagnostic interventions in the printed and painterly images of Davin Klye Knight. Few contemporary works play with so many different forms of registration as Knight's most recent series. By actively moving between a wide variety of paper types, multi-layered forms of editing, and the duplicitous use of technology with handmade interventions, we find that Knight's pictorial vocabulary invites a forensic type of looking. In this way, Knight's images are like a theater of the uncanny, everywhere giving us doppelgänger effects through the multiplication of diachronic and synchronic operations.
Composed from drawn, collaged and post-production techniques, Knight's works also involve repurporsing his own personal collection of art tools in order to activate multiple readings of '(de)standardized cultural use'. By hacking the history of abstract painting through a multitude of filtering processes, Knight's images highlight the slow matriculation process that sees culture moving from the age of mechanical reproduction into an era of seamless re-mediation. And yet, such a transition is not always a clear resolve, and it does not leave us with a secure definition of what a painting is at the opening of the 21st century. In fact, anything but.
This sense of tension is activated in Knight's pictorial practice by putting the categories of authorship and intentionality in abeyance. The space between collage and drawing, progression in a series and pure improvisation, or digital and painterly effects permeate his eclectic compositions. Even the use of traditional art materials and commercial techniques begin a slow collapse as the viewer investigates Knight's contiguous surfaces. It is here that the diagnostic process comes into full play as we encounter the future anterior of abstract painting, caught somewhere between the complexity of technological enculturation and the reclamation of modernist sensibilities. Perhaps it is only out of such a conflicted territory that we can even hope to make a diagnosis of the present state of culture. Much more importantly however, are the many ways in which Knight's art practice stands out as a significant project in helping us think about the problematic status of image making in the contemporary moment, something for which his recent works should be roundly applauded.
Bio: Davin Kyle Knight is a mixed media artist who lives and works in Los Angeles. He holds an M.F.A. in Studio Art from Claremont Graduate University and a B.A. in Studio Art from Western Washington University. He was the recipient of the CGU Art Fellowship (2010 & 2011), Helen B. Dooley Art Fellowship (2011) and the CGU President’s Art Award (2011). Knight’s work has been exhibited in several West Coast cities, including Seattle, Los Angeles and San Diego.
Michelle Jane Lee
The works of Michelle Jane Lee are visual cryptograms that invite us to participate with them on a number of different levels. Her images are process-based works that are not reducible to a strict set of operations, minimalist works that are not merely the result of systems thinking, and while they tend to be geometric in nature, that does not mean they are necessarily essentialist. Every time we encounter one of Lee's delicately mounted drawings, which have the presence and power of any image that sits alongside a substrate, we are met with a series of ciphers that draw us deeper and deeper into the quite contemplation of Lee's hybrid forms and processes.
Her titles, often taken from romantic pop songs, are the first cue that this is not merely a minimalist program. The fact that the coded systems Lee works with are not hermetic, but are based on translating text into image, provides another hint that we are encountering a different kind of aesthetic project than historical precedence provides for. Even more telling is the fact that Lee's color choices are specific to a moment of personal remembrance, a quality that links her pallet to a phenomenology of 'felt' qualities even while activating certain color codes common to the culture unconscious. This dual inflection of the semiotic and sentimental is not lost on anyone willing to linger a little longer before the impressions that emerge from Lee's optically active surfaces. The insistence on touch, a certain carefulness in the consideration of process, and even a subtle sense of narrative are all provided for by Lee's emphasis on pushing select contrasts in pictorial experience.
All of this testifies to a certain trust that Lee has in her audience to make contact with both sides of the work, the emotional and the conceptual. Even the intimacy of scale provided for by her images invites a kind of intensive reflection by asking the art going public to have a singular encounter that relies on the necessity of placing oneself close to the image. It is here, within the intimate space of viewership, that the process of deciphering a series of encoded indices begings to reveal an art practice that is deeply committed to working through the concerns of twentieth century abstraction as well as developing a set of paradoxical interests that are decidedly different from the aesthetic programs of the past. From such a perspective we can say that the proliferation of proximate historical referents that are never absent of the personal dimension circumscribe the kinds of encounters Lee's work trades in.
In the final analysis however, it may be the many ways in which Lee creates a distance from the act of visual consumption as mere spectatorship that is the works abiding politic. Moreover, Lee's pictures are also a manifest contribution to how we think about the the politics of presence and presentment in contemporary drawing practices, as each of Lee's images is not only something which one is drawn to but which also feel as if they were drawn just for you.
Bio: Michelle Jane Lee spent her childhood in Seoul, Korea, lived in Chicago and studied at The School of the Art Institute (of Chicago.) Lee participated in the Yale University School of Art: Norfolk residency and has shown in cities across the US including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City as well as in Copenhagen, Denmark. She currently lives and works in LA.