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Currently on view at the 201 Chrystie Street location of Lehmann Maupin is a Lee Bul exhibition, which will close this Saturday. Consisting of a large-scale installation and a series of sculptures, the exhibition considers the concept of utopia and the tensions that we encounter through our attempts at progress. Bul thus pushes viewers to reconsider the boundaries and deficiencies of humanity, refining our understanding of “the true essence of divine nature.”
Despite the appeal of technology, modernity is riddled with apprehension, a concept that Bul addresses in Monster: Black (1998; reconstructed 2011). The sequined and tentacled monster is captivating, yet repulsive. It shimmers with promise, but the uncontrollable limbs trigger a feeling of unease. Untitled (2014) suspends from the gallery ceiling, made up of crystal, glass, and acrylic, evoking a futuristic though complex urban world.
Central to the exhibition is Bul’s reflective, disorienting installation, entitled Via Negativa II (2014). To begin, you enter a mirrored labyrinth that spirals seemingly endlessly and splits off occasionally, which further complicates the experience. After having navigated this maze, you come upon the interior chamber, lined with infinity mirrors and dazzling lights. In that space, you can focus only on the lights; the world dissolves along with your consciousness of who you are and where you are.
Although you can still see fragments of your reflection, you feel misplaced in a sort of wonderland. This luminous chamber pushes you to define the world not by what it is, but what it is not (hence, the title). Despite the inevitable disorientation caused by the spiraled journey and the infinite lights, the inner chamber of Via Negativa II somehow generates clarity.