Originally from Korea, David Choong Lee (featured in HF Vol. 30) has been a staple of San Francisco’s art scene for the past 20 years. Known for his elaborate assemblages composed of individual paintings on boxes on different depths, Lee deftly blends figuration with abstract dreamscapes, inserting realistically-rendered figures into explosions of shapes and kaleidoscopic colors. For his latest body of work, however, Lee emptied his paintings of human presence. His solo show “Cosmic Dust,” opening at Luna Rienne Gallery in San Francisco on September 13, will feature a series of acrylic paintings on canvas that focus on Lee’s intergalactic worlds — untouched and uninhabited. Honing in on the psychedelic imagery that once served as a background for his figures, he unfurls pools of liquid rainbows, mysterious glowing orbs and powerful beams of light. His new work gives the sensation of touching down on another planet.
This is Lee’s first abstract body of work, and one that he considers very personal. While he refers to realist painting as a testament to his skill, when I visited his San Francisco studio space he seemed excited yet hesitant to show his new paintings to the world. “When someone understands one of these paintings, it’s like they’re hugging me really deep from inside,” he said. Unlike his past work, his new imagery stems entirely from his imagination and is the result of laborious studies: painting and rearranging over and over to develop a new visual vocabulary. Lee began to shift his gears from realism to abstraction about five years ago and has finally gotten to a point where he is ready to open a new chapter in his practice. Though he’s a veteran of the art world, he’s just getting started.
“Cosmic Dust” opens at Luna Rienne Gallery in San Francisco on September 13.