Western Project is proud to present the third solo exhibition by Los Angeles artist, Patrick Lee. For over ten years Lee has worked on his series Deadly Friends; an investigation into the lives of men on the streets of America. Looking to understand the subtle and often forceful appearances of men the artist has created a body of work this time inspired by the environs around LA City Jail and the nearby Union Station. Observing an area of opposites, he writes:
"gray concrete, drab, sulphurous tungsten....a weird zone of Bail Bond boutiques, buses, trains... wandering about amongst thousands of commuters...many without any idea where to go or how.. Union Station is a hub, a place to start over in a sense and an opportunity to escape the city, the past."
Lee's process involves meeting and photographing random individuals and interacting with them over periods of time, listening to stories of family, jobs, triumphs, relationships, and failed dreams. He constructs images of men informed by these personal histories and interviews. Solely drawn by hand, without Photoshop or digital assistance, each pore and hair is minutely detailed. Often using multiple source figures, the drawings are composites of physical features and attributes. The work is an exploration of the artifice of masculinity; the mask of appearance men create with tattoos, scars, body muscle, or facial hair to acquire money, sex, power and essentially survival. Akin to Richard Avedon's brutal clarity and Manet's social realism, Lee's portraits address class and gender definitions, assumptions and myths. What is seen is not always what is. Lee exposes 'maleness' as complex and not necessarily inherent; the alpha male an amalgam of personal history and strategy; an essential illusion, a form of adaptation to our cultural environment. His figures are not the social 'ideal', they are complex combinations of human qualities from pride to rage, un-heroic in the traditional sense; unabashed and bare. It is the balance of opposites which make Lee's images compelling; power without humanity can never be a complete human picture.
Lee has had numerous national and international exhibitions. He was included in, Drawings for the New Century, at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, B-B-B-BAD, an exhibition with attitudes, at Anna Kustera Gallery, New York, Male at Maureen Paley Gallery, London, UK, curated by Vince Aletti, and Lush Life at Salon 94, New York. He has also exhibited at Ameringer McEnery Yohe in New York, the Francis Young Tang Teaching Museum at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York, the Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro, North Carolina, University of La Verne, La Verne, California, Howard House in Seattle, Washington, and the Marc Selwyn Gallery in Los Angeles, California. He is in the collection of the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas. He is also a recipient of the Peter S. Reed Foundation grant for 2006.