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A Monument to the Things We Have to Throw Away

In the last solo exhibition, "Face to Face", held at Art Forum New Gate, showing anonymous facial images like the masks, Lee Jae-Hoon began to ask questions to spectators, with a title of "What is your face?" The query reflected on a critical mind concerning the superficial communication methods of contemporary people, with a real face of an individual hided. In this solo exhibition, after 2 years, he brings out the critical mind in a more evolved mode of expression. In his latest pieces of work often appears a term of 'gloomy generation'. It is originally naming a 'me-alone-generation' that acts all alone without making an interaction with others, but he says that it means himself in the work. But the method investigated by the artist, as one of the 'gloomy generation’, is the one concerning communication. Hoping to communicate and interact with the real faces existing beyond formality of a society, he argues about the barriers of communication, in his own inimitable way.
Asking questions to spectators by means of a title is similar to the previous pieces of work, but a remarkable change in the new pieces of work by Lee Jae-Hoon is to show the socially accepted ideas which make it impossible to communicate by bodying forth them in certain forms. The superficial, anonymous faces showed in the previous pieces of work changed into more substantialized features, and each of the features including 'one of life', 'one of a penniless bum', ‘one of a beauty’ and 'one of a teacher’ indicates stereotyped ideas in the society. All the features were expressed in forms of the features of half-length without legs, with eyes covered up, mostly. Because of texture like the stone statues incarnated by the techniques mixed with materials of an oriental painting and fresco and immobility of which the forms hint, the features of half-length give us an impression of the stuffed ones without vitality. It's interesting that each of the features is expressed as monuments to socially accepted ideas.
A monument generally performs a linguistic function reflecting collective ideals rather than subjective, internal ones, because of its public property. Most of monuments play a role of a political language, because they are in common use in the particular institutional morals setting up a society and they are ones idealizing social roles of a collective. There only exists a social sphere, as a social system, in which emotions, spirit and individuality of humans are difficult to be into. Making the most of a superficial property and a function as an apparent emblem of the monuments, Lee Jae-Hoon presents them as the symbols of communication-barriers which he tries to confront. He named the monuments as 'un-monument', a neologism. The expression is for criticizing the roles of the monuments which have lost essential meanings, only having functions of indicating and marking social ideas. That is, of course, not a monument itself, but a story about the monumented value system.

Even tough the types of socially accepted ideas hold an institutional sector so firmly that they are built as invisible monuments in our consciousness, in fact, they hardly function mentally. Lee Jae-Hoon makes an accusation against the politico-social ethics internalized in a personal life, the morals for countless, repeatedly re-created principles, and the places for idols where spirits don't dwell and the superficial reside. As a monument to something functions as a something-replacing object, it has, in fact, a paradox indicating nonexistence of entity. By the monuments, Lee Jae-Hoon reveals the falsity of value systems which only exist as symbols, with losing contact with essence. That originated in the artist's alienated feeling due to a gap between internal truths and external forms. To express a critical mind, a unique method by Lee Jae-Hoon is to create a world only consisted of typical forms. By giving concrete expression of the world in which an individual is replaced with a social title and a symbol of a collective, and the one of ostentation in which a real communication is impossible, he tries to make spectators look the shadow of an shade, an illusion, in the face.
A stamp of 'Very good!' and a class motto of 'Let's be righteous!', often shown in the work by Lee Jae-Hoon, are things that exist for the institutional principles of school. Of a right or wrong judgment and a code of ethics only estimated by a result, with a process or a motive omitted, he asks a question, 'Is everybody doing well?' A discord between words of 'Very good!' and a title of 'Is everybody doing well?' is straightforward and frank. A monumental aura of an old stone statue which stands alone on a plain makes us reflect on the norms to throw away, the ones fossilized in our consciousness. Of the expressive method, Lee Jae-Hoon notes that "it is for viewing the real features overlapped behind the numerous, obscure ones that are seen in an instant." In this point where a Buddhist soul-searching is revealed, it can seen that the features of half-length, with eyes covered up, imply a metaphor for lives of the human beings who see things but can't view them properly.
When I visited Lee Jae-Hoon's studio, a king-sized piece of work filling a wall arrested my eyes, first. The impressive work with an atmosphere of vanity like the one of the ruins depicts aspects of a university, so-called 'an ivory tower'. The piece of work gives an impression of a real monument, because of a big scale, a form of accumulated features, and texture like stones by fresco. It's special on the point that he gave shape to the symbols indicating formal ones as concrete, material forms. It's because that is an attempt for getting over a gap between entity and language by painting language. Studying, class mottoes, certificate and the features including ones of teacher, student, penniless bum and conqueror, which represent the various ideas related to a schooling system, look comic in an instant, but the overall atmosphere is dark and revealing. The features of the superficial ideas give a chilly, gloomy impression of the things that exist without vitality, like an old house built on a plain or an old tower of ghosts. The images ask spectators seriously, obviously, once again about the ivory tower which is built as a virtual image without entity; "Is this the real?"

By Lee Eun-Joo / Independence curator 

Artist statement

The big, dense forest, a so-called society, has grown through human interchanges or communication -acquisition of new knowledge, information and emotion-; in other words, the collective has developed a human sphere, life, by the tools of communication and harmonized me with the others, and it has been more and more developing.
In the society, for us, there exist certain ideas. They are a Utopia having the social values given by the society, a certain category, or titles having the values of certain terms. They cause us certain ideal actions and thoughts, and these actions and thoughts become ideal aims of each idea.
From that, the actions become truths or righteous things in the line of common sense, a social common idea. For instance, by the society are agreed upon certain actions concerning ideas, such as the ideas regarding beauty and true or false things, or the terms of family, teacher, student and profession, or the social titles originated in the characteristics of human actions.
In sum, humans prescribe human essential values and multilateral ideas for themselves and distinguish them from the rest.

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