Towers in the Park Installation
As the son of Korean immigrants, Lee takes inspiration from his ethnically rich upbringing to create mixed-media installations and sculptures responding to themes of integration, displacement and cultural survival. The predominate element in Lee’s installation is his series of rice bag pillowcases. The creation and exhibition of these rice bags demonstrates Lee’s use of appropriation as a part of his contemporary art practice. Appropriation is the intentional copying and alteration of existing recognizable images and objects, and it is the Pop Art movement’s most well-known art making technique. It was first popularized by the collages of Richard Hamilton in the late 1950s and rose in prominence during the mid-20th century’s rise of consumerism. Artists use appropriation to explore and challenge notions of authorship, iconography, popular culture and traditional art making by re-contextualizing the images they are appropriating
This series of rice bag pillowcases showcase Lee’s own satirical ‘Pan Asian Rice’ brand. Or his “bootlegged brand” as the artist has referred to it as. The bags’ graphics speak to common images used by other popular rice brands, notably the recognizable depiction of a central red rose. The rose motif is explored further as Lee repeats this image as ornamental engravings in many of the exhibited artworks. The rice bags specifically play with the viewer’s expectations as instead of carrying the hefty weight of 40 lbs of rice, they are filled with practically weightless pillows. Similarly, while most of Lee’s sculptural objects in the installation are recognizable as everyday objects, they have their understanding transformed by the juxtaposition of placing these primarily domestic items into a gallery exhibition space. This is not dissimilar to Andy Warhol’s Brillo Boxes from 1964.