Posted on Tuesday, December 4, 2007 by Brenda Tucker
Tim Lee was the fall 2007 Capp Street Project artist in residence at the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts. An exhibition of the work he completed during his residency, organized by Wattis Institute director Jens Hoffmann, will be on view from January 8, 2008, to January 10, 2009. This is Lee's first solo project for a San Francisco public art institution. The exhibition is free and open to the public, with an opening reception on Tuesday, January 8, from 6–8 p.m.
Lee's project traces a connection between Steve Martin's first comedy album, Let's Get Small, recorded live at San Francisco's Boarding House in 1977, and Neil Young's seminal electric/acoustic album Rust Never Sleeps, recorded live at San Francisco's Cow Palace in 1979.
On Let's Get Small Steve Martin says, now famously, "You just can't play a depressing song on the banjo." Lee had no previous experience with the banjo but decided to test this hypothesis by learning to play a song on it over the course of his residency. He selected Neil Young's "My My, Hey Hey," which Young plays acoustically on the first track of Rust Never Sleeps and electrically on the album's final track. Lee's banjo rendition of the song represents a third, bluegrass, version and is his first-ever audio piece; it will be installed in the Wattis Institute elevator and also available for purchase as a limited-edition 12-inch vinyl record. In addition, a number of photographs and a new video work related to the project will be presented in the Wattis Institute galleries from January 8–February 2, 2008, as part of the ongoing Passengers exhibition.
Lee's artistic practice is concerned with public figures from sports, art history, and popular culture. He examines key moments in the careers of particular individuals and explores how these moments relate to a larger cultural history. In the case of Neil Young and Steve Martin, he looked at the various ways in which the musician and the comedian struggled with the public's expectations of their creativity—how Young's constant transformations have surprised, and sometimes confounded, his audience, and how Martin became trapped in his first comic persona and later transformed himself to reassert his creative freedom.
About the Artist
Tim Lee was born in Seoul in 1975 and lives and works in Vancouver. In 2002 he received an MFA from the University of British Colombia, Vancouver. Lee has had recent solo exhibitions at Cohan and Leslie, New York; Lisson Gallery, London; and Presentation House Gallery, Vancouver. He been featured in the group exhibitions All About Laughter: Humor in Contemporary Art, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2007); Acting the Part: Photography as Theatre, Vancouver Art Gallery (2007); Sliding Doors, Tate Modern, London (2006); and Sound and Vision, Musée des beaux-arts, Montreal (2006). He will also be included in the 2008 Sydney Biennale. Lee's work is in numerous international museum collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; and Tate Modern, London.