We recently swung by Mana Contemporary in Jersey City to catch up with Israeli, New York-based artist Lee Tal. His sculptural paintings blend abstract minimalism with everyday objects to create a body of work that is playfully familiar and conceptual in execution. Utilizing things like clothing and skateboards, Tal’s “interlock” series camouflage his resin-casted subjects in a bold suspension of form and color, whilst conversing with sharper, more intentional edges of canvas.
Process is important to Tal and while the final work is aesthetically very polished and thoughtfully designed, Tal explains that he hopes to experiment with new processes and materials such as cast bronze. We sat down with Tal to talk about Mana, the importance of objects and how immigrating to the US has such an impact on his practice. Take a look at our interview with him below.
Jessica Ross: Where are you from/ currently based and what kind of work do you make?
Lee Tal: I was raised in Tel Aviv, and since 2013 I’ve been working and living in NYC. The work I’m doing is mostly mixed-media wall pieces that integrate sculpting and painting into a single language; I’m calling it conceptual pop works. My work combines a concept that is, on one hand, influence by clearly defined aspects of Minimalism, while on the other hand, infused with a pop influence that is recognizable in everyday objects and changes their use by giving them new context. You could say that I am trying to create pop work with a reductive under-pinning. In that way, I’m trying to create a new trajectory of pop art and culture with an underline of minimal conceptual art.
Can you tell us a little about your interlock series, how did this project start?
I started my interlocked object series back in 2012, when I started to look for a place to relocate myself and I was in the process of diluting my possessions. During this process, I noticed that certain objects were a kind of an attribute for my life, the use of thus object allowed me to create a version of a self-portrait. The use of geometrical abstract forms and shapes and combining it with the three-dimensional objects is creating several levels of influences between the object and the background. That allows the object to become something that it’s not just my own personal reflection, but an object that the viewer can relate to.
What is it about everyday objects that compel you to utilize them in your practice?
As stated, it originated as a way to downsize my possessions before immigrating into the US, and after I arrived in the US there were also financial reasons since I didn’t have the ability to purchase traditional art materials, that forced me to use my possessions as my art materials. But the main reason today for my use of every day objects in my work is their ability to deliver almost an international cultural message. Cause today at an age of massive consumption every object is also carrying a kind of nostalgic feeling and story, or a message that is not always connected to the original purpose of the object.
Can you give us a little insight into your process? How has it changed over the years?
My work process contains two different directions, in the first direction I’m looking for objects that I can relate too, and that can tell a story. At the second direction, I’m looking for interesting shapes and colors that can create the background atmosphere, in a way you can say that I’m creating two different art pieces, a sculpture, and a painting. After I have those two pieces done I’m looking for two pieces that I can combine together to create the whole story. Through the years there have been two main changes that happen in my work. The first one was when I started to use more diverse kinds of objects, I think that allowed me to tell a broader story. The second thing is the use in new kinds of materials such as aluminum, bronze and different kinds of resins that allow me to manipulate the object in more efficient ways.
Any exhibitions or projects on the horizon for you? Where can we follow your work?
I took 2018 as a year to deepen my body of works, and to create a whole new series that is called “study on painting”, in this series I’m researching the use of painting materials, especially raw pigments and frames to create sculptural artworks. I’m currently working on an upcoming solo show that will happen in 2019.