Dong Yeoun Lee: Project Room
Gallery d’Arte, NY
2/28 - 3/14, 2017
Dong Yeoun Lee's series of female portraits features standing and sitting young women in traditional Korean dress who display a range of technological devices. Although the scroll paintings elicit a definite Asian sensibility (oriental coloring on oriental paper), they are reminiscent of the art of Thomas Gainsborough who produced sympathetic portraits of female subjects, which penetrated their social "masks" to reveal the truth of their character. Lee’s works are shorn of site-specific ornamentation; they hone the essence of solitary or dual figures situated on empty formats, which accentuate their faces and poses.
The young women exist in isolation within the confines of the vertical design as they quietly assert their presence. The figure in "Clear Girl" displays a contemplative smile, mysterious and inward, not unlike a "Mona Lisa" smile in its enigmatic purity and elusiveness. The girl in "Redefining Contemporary Beauty 5" (2012) dresses traditionally but her preoccupations appear to be thoroughly modern as she listens, presumably, to music with headsets, wears a digital watch and seems to be using a Bluetooth device with her cell phone. Her Hanbok garment signifies the ability to participate in the customs of historical eras as well as present day trends. The girl's modest reserved demeanor might suggest that she is "old-fashioned" apart from her display and use of contemporary devices. The subjects are out to communicate on whatever level they are functioning on at the present moment.
The communication tools infuse a narrative element into several of the works; the females in "Redefining Contemporary Beauty 1," and "Redefining Contemporary Beauty 5" convey the impression that they experience no strife or conflicts, but accept the intersection of past and present, navigating diverse cultural expectations in a hybrid life.