Feels Good: Inside the Studio of Austin Lee Before His Debut Solo Show with Jeffrey Deitch
Back in December, we got a unique opportunity to get a sneak preview of the new works that Austin Lee was working on for his upcoming solo debut at Jeffrey Deitch Gallery in NYC. Following his participation in Punch, curated by Nina Chanel Abney at Jeffrey Deitch in the fall of 2018, and People, currently on view at the gallery's LA space, Feels Good is shaping up to be an important milestone showcase in this unique artist's career.
Knowing Lee's work and practice for years, we were expecting his studio to be somewhat of a ground 0 of colourful creativity. Garage size basement space in Long Island City was covered with paint and vibrant residue on every surface, and Lee was effortlessly navigating through it and handling large canvases while equipped with a large mask. Almost exclusively working with an airbrush as his primary tool, all the books, clothes, and other items inside, were bound to have a light patina of some of the vibrant hues he is using in his work. Sadly, these fumes can be quite harmful, so the artist had to source this top of the line, Storm Trooper-like protective gear which makes a huge difference.
During our visit, Lee shared with us a couple of finished, mostly large scale pieces, including the Croma piece based on the iconic loading icon seen on Apple computers. This particular piece is a great example of his strong relationship with digital graphics and aesthetics, as well as the use of computers as the major tool in his practice. Combining the latest image-making technologies with traditional artistic processes his luminous paintings evoke the light of a computer screen or the unnatural surface of his 3D printed models and sculptures. Using simple shading effects, playing with blurred Vs sharp elements, as well as working with contrasting intense colours, he is creating an illusion of depth by layering otherwise flat imagery. Groundbreaking in his efforts to use contemporary tools to create contemporary artworks, the pieces often feel like glitches in everyday reality, especially when exhibited in a clean gallery spaces.
Photos and text by Sasha Bogojev for Juxtapoz Magazine
Feels Good will be on view at Jeffrey Deitch NY from March 9–April 27, 2019 at 18 Wooster Street