LOVE NOTES: A Solo Exhibition by Michelle Jane Lee
Unapologetically emotional despite her minimalist aesthetic and conceptual methodology, Michelle Jane Lee represents a new wave of artists practicing Emotional Conceptualism. Dedicated to celebrating sensitivity and narrative while embracing a process-based approach towards abstraction, Lee’s work proves conceptualism and emotion need not be mutually exclusive. In the words of Lauren Berlant, professor of English at the University of Chicago, “Foucault was wrong to say that sex was the truth of modernity. It is feeling and affect.” Berlant’s proclamation manifests in the work of Lee and her peers. Michelle Jane Lee’s Love Notes is a series of over 100 coded letters written over three years. Lee constructed a new alphabet by assigning a color to each letter to communicate and navigate a profound personal experience in love and loss - in her own words, "to say everything without saying anything, without being found out.” Painstakingly composing then concealing her language through a secret code, Lee authors communiqués of color. Delightfully chromatic and seemingly purely aesthetic at first glance, each iteration of the series reveals the weight of a highly personal embedded message upon closer inspection. Representing both the desire to communicate devotion and the desperation to cover it up, the work externalizes an internal battle – elevating an emotional crisis through an obsessively systematic practice and sublime formal symbolization. Each letter in the series is composed on hand-gridded paper, first written in English, then finally translated into color. Beginning with Passive Aggressive Love Notes and Other Unmentionable Thoughts, a series of short musings and confessions, evolving through Exit Strategy, a group of larger pieces meant to put an end to the series, Love Notes’ penultimate piece is a 30-foot-long letter entitled I Don’t Want to Stare at Your Feet All Night. Inscribed over one and half years onto a 30-foot-long scroll, the entire letter will be exhibited for the very first time at Gallery 3209. Love Notes comes to a close, perhaps, with Lee’s latest work- I Wish You All the Best. This sub-series advances the linguistic critique by adding another action to the process. The letter is written and translated then painted over in white, only to be scratched into again – I Wish You All the Best forges its own dynamic dialogue of expression and repression. Michelle Jane Lee’s Love Notes are an ecstatic exaltation of color, a powerful deconstruction of language, and a compelling performance of high-risk sincerity.
Curated by: Denni Zelikowsky