Yona Lee’s work is an invitation to look further into the objects and spaces surrounding us, especially … two of the most common activities of our time—transit and consumption.
—Art News New Zealand
This summer, City Gallery Wellington presents In Transit, a sculptural exhibition by Auckland-based New Zealand–Korean artist Yona Lee made especially for City Gallery. This will be her first major show in the capital.
Lee’s site-specific installations—maze-like networks of bent, folded, and welded stainless-steel tubes—transform gallery spaces. She turns this material, which is often used for crowd control, into a tool of imaginative escape and liberation.
Lee’s work can be read in different ways: as structure or system; as abstract, utilitarian, or utopian; as sculpture, drawing, even as music (she is a classical cellist).
The sculpture traces the movement of utility pipes and tubes through and between two gallery spaces. As it snakes around columns, behind walls, through vents and ceilings, it draws attention to aspects of gallery architecture that normally go unnoticed. Lee brings new functionality to the gallery, adding a bed, bus-stop buttons, seats, tables, even an iPhone docking station. Apparently, the most frequently asked question at gallery front desks is ‘Can I charge my phone?’
‘Each work starts with Lee mapping the gallery space, and analysing its particular spatial and social dynamics. Lee conceives her sculpture in musical terms. At City Gallery, In Transit takes sonata form. It’s staged as three interconnected structures spread across two downstairs galleries and the corridor that links them to the Auditorium’, says exhibition curator Aaron Lister.
This is the fifth work in Lee’s In Transit series, with previous installations at Seoul’s SeMA Nanji and Alternative Space Loop (both 2016), Auckland’s Te Tuhi (2017), and Sydney’s Art Gallery of New South Wales (2018).
Yona Lee will discuss her work in an Opening Day Artist Talk at City Gallery Wellington with curator Aaron Lister on 8 December at 2pm.