For years, Margaret Lee, the multi-hyphenate New York artist, made “handmade readymades”: ultra-realistic cast vegetables and flowers in stainless steel and chrome, polished to a high shine. The works in “Bad, Immediately,” Lee’s newest solo show at Jack Hanley, are reflective as well—though less in surface than in content.
Like a recent suite of paintings entitled I.C.W.U.M, short for “I See What You Mean,” this group of artworks have medium lines of newspaper, rope, and oil paint on canvas. Their layered and obscured surfaces recall the public and anonymous accumulations of cities, such as signs posted on site barriers or subway ads. In a new sculptural installation, a large rope hangs from the ceiling, tangling messily, then snakes across the gallery floor, coiling upon scales arranged around the room. To Lee, rope inhabits the status of in-between object, something that connects or prepositions, and represents the tenuousness of infrastructure—a fitting metaphor for current times, in which our institutions buckle under the weight of a pandemic, in which we are all at the end of our proverbial rope.
Margaret Lee, Ropes, Nails, Scales (in relation), 2021. Rope, stainless steel nails, scales, dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist and Jack Hanley Gallery. Photo: Brad Farwell.