Saturday, November 10, 2012


Behind the Drapes, Under the Draft, 2012, acrylic on canvas with plywood and staples, 27 x 21 x 6 1/2 inches

Untitled (Black Bottom, White), 2009, oil and vinyl on paper mounted on insulation foam and wood, 24 x 18 x 4 inches

Untitled (Upper Guston), 2008, acrylic on canvas over wood with staples, 9 x 7 x 2 1/2 inches 

Wind and Limb, 2012, oil on linen and wood with staples, 25 1/2 x 20 x 3 inches

Untitled (Crawlspace II), 2011, oil and acrylic on canvas dropcloth with staples and wood,
66 x 44 inches 



Every time I go to a gallery or museum, I always take a look at the sides of paintings, and if possible, maybe I’ll see hanging threads, parts of stretchers or even the back. My hope is to see more, to see what else went into the construction — not just what’s on the canvas, but what truly supports the canvas. So it appears I have a curiosity about things and their making.
The work of Jim Lee satisfies all of my inquiries in one glance. The first time I saw his paintings, I caught sight of a painter who values all of the materials at hand. And it’s a very singular way with the stuff of painting that Jim has. There’s a fusion of irreverence and bliss. Irreverence as scaffolding and staples are sometimes brought around from the back of the work to the front — and a knowing, calming feeling of bliss from the realization that something great has been done with the most basic of materials.

PB:  Some of your paintings involve intricate and unique support structures while others are more traditional and planar. What considerations go into the making of both types of work?

JL:  I’m not sure if I make a distinction with my paintings. For me, it’s just about working with my materials and trying to understand how to transition from one to the next, incorporating the physical vs. the visual. Whether its pieces of wood, a slice of linen, graphite marks, oil, latex paints, rubber, aluminum, I try to be open and not get caught up with prescribed hierarchies. I don’t want to have limitations when I work—I want more possibilities. But to try and answer your question, I suppose my work comes from a variety of enthusiasms. One being, that I’m very curious about how paintings and objects relate to the space in which they exist. How they connect with the physical space and how that promotes interaction with the viewer. As an individual, I bounce around in my social mannerisms. Sometimes I’m very outgoing while other times I desire quiet peaceful moments. I have to assume that my painting follows similar traits. Sometimes I’m quite social and out front, other times I’m more subdued and reticent. I’m a Libra and perhaps my work is created depending upon my mood at that time.

PB:  Some of your titles such as, Upper Guston, have art historical references. Others like, A Stone Ginger and Chop Tank, come from other sources. Can you tell me more about your titles and how they have specific meaning to you? 

JL:  That’s funny. Folks seem to like my titles. For me, they are an extension, a way to allow more information to pass thru the painting, a way for the painting to connect with the viewer—at the same time being somewhat elusive. I remember when I made Upper Guston. It was a Friday night in August, 2008 and I was on Long Island. I had been working on the painting for a few weeks but nothing was really happening with as usual, I just set it aside and started on something else. But that Friday night was different. I was working (the thinking and the doing were as one) and I got lost in the process. I was engaged in the painting and I never felt the need to step back from the painting to “have a look” – I stayed in it. I don’t know how long I was working because when this occurs I lose track of things, minutes become hours, etc.  Anyway, I finally felt the painting was just hanging on—barely a pulse—so I stepped away and I was sorta startled by the final image. It looked familiar but in a very odd way. I thought of Philip Guston and decided to go to the bar. So to make a short story long, I guess the name just arrived through process.

My titles can’t be forced. If I don’t have a title that just seems obvious to me the painting will get the “Untitled“ with a parenthetical descriptor. I reference all sorts of stuff.  Mostly sports, music, mapping, phrasing and fables. Chop Tank is the name of a river in Maryland and A Stone Ginger was the name of a race horse. So I pull from all over the place.

PB:  What also interests me is the possible range of influences on your work. Who are some of the artists—past and current—whose work you find significant? 

JL:  I’d say my influences run all over the place, from Titian to the everyday basement craftsmen. I’m easily blown away by the lighting in a Goya painting yet also enamored with the gas cap of a ’64 Pontiac. In terms of significant artists, I mean there are too many to name. The brutal elegance of Marlene Dumas, John McCracken and his shiny slabs, Ellsworth Kelly, Newman’s Onement, Palermo—the list goes on, but when someone asks me who my favorite artist is...I always say Gordon Matta Clark. I know my work has nothing to do with his but I just love the generosity that I feel in his work and can only hope that my work could generate a response that powerful in someone else.

PB:  Are there other mediums that you have also worked in or plan to work in as an extension of your current practice? 

JL:  I’m just a painter. I don’t think that I’m smart enough to do much else; although, I would like to add a sound element at some point in time. But that seems a long way off.

PB:  What’s in your top ten (essential books, music, quotes, etc.)? 

JL:  Cool, I like lists.

10. The Hanover Merzbau -- I was about 17 years old and I discovered Schwitters. He was the first artist that gave my visuals validity.  

9. -- I’ve been an Eagles fan since about 1978 (all Philly sports for what it’s worth). I check this site at least 6 times a day.

8. Bruce Nauman -- His mannerisms are fantastic; using limited tools to promote unconventional ways to solve issues in the studio.  

7. Innies.

6. Sargent’s Madam X -- I wish the strap was still off her shoulder.

5. True Crime Novels -- Blood and Money is one of my faves.

4. Blue States, thanks Iowa.    

3. Audio Random Repeat function -- I’ll listen to The Stooges, T.V. Eye for 12 hours gets weird after about the end, I feel what I imagine a hostage situation to be like.

2. Brussels -- all the great people and the disjointed architecture reminds me of Brooklyn and the Midpoint Cafe is my spot....It’s my Brussels version of the Montero.

1. Maisy Jaymes -- my 4 month old daughter is simply the coolest thing I’ve had a hand in making.