Marking the passage of time through vigorous, repetitive brushstrokes, Catherine Lee's Quanta Paintings recall her grid-like mark paintings from the late 1970s with new sensual surfaces. Over the last three decades Lee has focused on sculpture, but painting and serialization are threads that continue to run throughout her work. Complementing the Quanta series is Alice, Lee's monumental wall sculpture comprised of ceramic forms. Quanta opens to the public at Galerie Lelong on Thursday, March 22, from 6 to 8pm. The artist will be present.
The exhibition and series' title, Quanta, takes its name from the physics term that refers to a discrete quantity of radiant energy. Each individual square on the canvas's grid releases its own unit of light and color, resulting in an overall dynamism. In Tottenheads (2011), Prussian blue peeks out from under the foreground of supple squares of cadmium red, thrusting the red towards the viewer. Lee sees painting as a ritual act and each square on the canvas as binding a relationship between her and the individual painting. The titles are often drawn from the artist's own poetry, adding another personal element to the work.
Lee begins a Quanta painting by drawing a grid onto the canvas in pencil. Over several days, the artist completely fills a layer of squares with a single mixed color, lets it dry, and continues layering until the painting is resolved. Some paintings are multi-layered like Brick Black Blue Black (2011), a few are reduced to one plane like Prussia (2011), but most Quanta paintings have two layers of differing hues such as Chocolate Cadmium (2012). One of the parameters Lee set for herself in this series was that "the colors should create a duet of sorts, very clear and clean, a kind of two-part harmony."