Exhibition: Evan Lee Cirage at Monte Clark

Evan Lee 


January 13th – February 10th, 2024

Opening reception, Saturday, January 13th, noon to 5pm

Monte Clark is pleased to present Cirage, an exhibition of new paintings, pictures, prints and sculptures by Evan Lee.

Cirage is the French translation for shoe polish, a waxy paste or liquid used to polish, shine and waterproof leather shoes. 

Central to Evan Lee’s new body of work is an investigation into early photography, in particular Louis Daguerre’s Boulevard du Temple, taken in 1838. The photograph is one of the earliest surviving daguerreotype plates. At the time the picture was taken the Boulevard would have been bustling with pedestrians and horse traffic. Due to the long exposure time only static figures could be recorded, in this case a shoe shiner and his customer at the corner of the street, who may possibly be the first humans captured in a photograph. This picture represents a significant step in the development of photography, as well as the inherent class struggles emerging through the industrialization of France and separation between the wealthy and working class. Evan Lee’s After Vue de Boulevard du Temple, 1938 by Louis Daguerre is a reproduction of this detail of Daguerre’s picture rendered in shoe polish in lieu of ink or paint.

Lee’s use of shoe polish examines a common “low value” everyday product as an artistic medium, which he applies using different processes such as screen printing, or with paintbrushes. Shoe polish is chemically similar to paint or an encaustic, and once applied remains fixed. The material adds both colour and shine to any surface, like a faux-finish or veneer which conceals the surface underneath. Often performed by marginalized workers, shoe shining represents a form of labor tied to class and economic status. Lee’s sculptures, Cameos depicting silhouetted figures carved out from tins of shoe polish draw attention to the workers. 

Lee’s large-scale shoe polish paintings resemble iconic monochromatic paintings seminal to modern art of the 1950’s and 60s. This work considers tension between high art and low-class materials, pointing to the classism inherent in the economy of artistic production.

Evan Lee lives and works in Vancouver, BC. His first major solo exhibition Captures was held at the Presentation House Gallery in North Vancouver in 2006, and included catalogue essays by Jeff Wall and Peter Culley. Since then, Lee has exhibited in numerous museums and institutions including the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Art Gallery of Windsor, the Contemporary Art Gallery, the Surrey Art Gallery, the Richmond Art Gallery, the Confederation Centre for the Arts, the Liu Hai Su Art Museum, and at the Winnipeg Art Gallery as a Sobey Award Finalist in 2014. Lee’s work has been published in Artforum, Frieze, Canadian Art Magazine, Art on Paper, Border Crossings, Flash Art, Yishu Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art and other publications. 

This work was made with partial support from the BC Arts Council.

Featured works, from top: Evan Lee, After ‘Vue de Boulevard du Temple’, 1938 by Louis Daguerre, 2023, screen print with shoe polish on watercolour paper, 15 x 11 in; Evan Lee, Cameo, 2023, homemade shoe polish, vintage shoe polish tins, 2-1/2 in. diameter.