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Kang Seung Lee

Los Angeles Contemporary Archive (LACA)
Asian Center, 709 N Hill Street, 104-8 (upstairs), Chinatown
May 13, 2016–June 13, 2016

View of “Kang Seung Lee: Covers,” 2016.

Kang Seung Lee’s exhibition presents an uncommon library. His is no studied space stacked with hardbound classics—instead, this collection includes perishable papers and precious handmade books, all in editions of one. For this show, Lee reached into the California Institute of the Arts library to excavate monographs, catalogues, and artists’ books featuring women and people of color. The covers, those pages of first impressions, were then photocopied and installed on the gallery wall for Covers (all works 2015), transcribing the underrepresented into a type of space where the canon is simulated over and over again.

Alongside this accumulation of record—1,400 pieces wallpaper these walls—five books, organized by decade from 1971 to 2015, are presented as ersatz encyclopedias of the same materials. These volumes serve as yet another exhibition space and place for the covers and the work they represent to recur. Lee’s index is chronological, and his author’s note consists of insertions of his line drawings within the pages on the walls. Through his documentarian efforts, the artist reveals the work of lesser known artists, himself included, and chronicles voices that do exist but have been stifled underneath the layers of the familiar.

A photocopy is also a familiar thing, but it can degrade over time, the blacks and whites blurring into a new, less recognizable image. With the right paper, though, it can also be archival with lasting effect. In Lee’s reimaging and reimagining, these cover copies become monuments to the artists, pulling their work into the collective consciousness and preserving them there for our memory to retrieve at any time.

Meg Whiteford