Migrant Portraits, 2013-2014, Oil on Canvas
Beginning in 2009, the artist began looking critically at found media and historical images, particularly those depicting protest and migration, with the intention of recreating, transforming, and expanding them through interdisciplinary forms such as sculpture, mixed media, and paintings. Staring with the project, Migrant Ship Re-Creation, this also took the form of several related projects: Migrant Portraits, Black Bloc (Black Blot), Black Bloc Abstraction (Diptych), Burning Flag (after Jyllands-Posten)
In contrast to popular, ubiquitous images of revolution and provocation (such as Alberto Korda’s portrait of Che Guevara, or the graffiti works of Banksy), the found press images that artist refers to are markedly non-iconic, from nameless and faceless Black Bloc protesters to migrants whose identities have been obscured by the press. Lee approaches these images from a perspective of speculation, creating artworks that either reconstruct or further obscure the subjects. This dual process amplifies the missing details and facts that are not included in the original press images or their accompanying news stories, pointing to an inherent confusion or lack of clarity surrounding the actual events.
These works include large-scale black and white paintings where silhouettes of marching Black Bloc protesters have been repeated in a motif that borders on abstraction; earth-toned, classical style oil portraits of the same migrants created in composite from blurry or pixelated press images and online searches; and a video that recreates the burning of a Danish flag, which was originally enacted by protesters in response to anti-Muslim cartoons that were published in Denmark. The works engage in a dialogue with news media images of protest, the interpretation of these images, their bias and their influence.