Curated by Misa Jeffereis, the exhibition Lee Kit: Hold your breath, dance slowly marks visual artist Lee Kit’s first U.S. solo show. Kit invites you to wander into soft-lighted galleries, hold your breath in quiet anticipation, and slowly sway from nook to nook to the melody of Elvis Presley’s Can’t Help Falling in Love (1961) to experience the various emotions created by Kit’s work.
As Kit worked in the gallery space in the two weeks leading up to the exhibition opening, he arranged objects and projections, created new artworks, and found unity with the space itself. He formed an emotional installation, where visitors can feel traces of the body which previously inhabited the space. Contrary to more open gallery spaces, Lee offers us a domestic space with many walls and doorways which—together with tables, folding chairs, lamps, and other household furnishings—creates an intimate and deeply personal space.
As an artist who makes site-specific installations, we had relatively little information (knowing only the title and the exhibition floor plan) to respond to before Lee’s arrival to the Walker. I took the title: “Lee Kit: Hold your breath, dance slowly,” and composed it in a way that the viewer could begin to feel the type of space and motion seen throughout the exhibition. In response to the various material sizes on which the title would be displayed, as well as the various routes one could enter and move through the gallery space, I decided that the title should be typographically rearranged in each of its iterations. This small intervention allows the viewer to both read each word separately and to connect them into the original title in various orders. As I realized later on, during the two weeks working with Kit, this approach/method was also his way of creating installations: finding objects, rearranging them, and making associative connections between each element until they created a substantial entity.
The gallery guide contains not only the traditional three-dimensional drawing of walls, but it also contains discrete representations of elements found within the exhibition, such as lamps and a TV-rack, as a way facilitating one’s navigation of the space and to underline the domesticity of the exhibition. The gallery guide also features images that showcase Lee Kit’s interest in light as a medium. Through the use of subtle duotone colors, the images become softer and evoke associations with the artist’s video projections and natural light. In further response to this quality of lightness (in terms of both visual lightness and perceptual feeling), the exhibition’s title is typeset in white (or, at times, in dark blue) on a light blue background in order to achieve a light, floating vibe. Furthermore, this quality of lightness within the typographic compositions is further emphasized through its relationship to the gallery itself and the way in which it functions similarly to the experience of navigating through the gallery space.
Light is one of the primary elements seen in Kit’s body of work. In the exhibition at the Walker, Kit used standing lamps and projectors as a source light. Fragile and ephemeral video works often capture the sunlight and projections fade into each other, merging with visitor’s shadows. Kit plays with stretching moments that attract his attention, extending them again and again in such a way that visitors to the gallery become detached from their familiarity to the common, domestic products seen throughout the exhibition. This feeling is amplified further by the nature of the installation which seems to have no beginning, middle, or end.
After researching Kit’s work, I came to understand that the work can be poetic, fragile, emotional, subtle, dynamic, and open, but that it can also be bitter and sometimes direct. Two paintings—Fuck you. (100g) and a piece called You, where Kit placed words produced by an inkjet transfer stating “You feed yourself everyday”—create moments of directness and harsh typographic messages which clash (visually and emotionally) with the tranquil mise-en-scène of the exhibition. Responding to this duality within Kit’s work informed my choice of Stanley as a typeface. Stanley is a font inspired by Times New Roman—perhaps the most classic typeface of the 20th century. The selected typeface is characterized by wide and sharp counter forms as well as short ascenders and descenders that generate neat typeset arrangements. The very graphic shape of the triangle-like serifs benefit from a maximum of contrast. This, in combination with the fully-justified texts that compose both the invitation and gallery guide, gives the typographic texture a strong and highly constructed appearance. As such, my use of Stanley became a means of highlighting the contrast between the very graphic forms of the typographic messages and the soft, lightness of the floods of blue projections.
Photos and design: Gabriela Baka