In the landscape of New York’s current contemporary arts scene, few figures have left such a subtle, yet enduring impact in the way that artist Margaret Lee has, both for her own work, and for her advocacy for the downtown arts community through her work with 47 Canal Gallery. Lee’s work is a perfect representation of the sort of all-in cosmopolitanism that defines her varied practices as both artist and gallerist, blending historical forms and an attentive use of formal minimalism to arrive and enigmatic, impressive installations and works. This framework is particularly well-illustrated in …banana in your tailpipe, an exhibition currently on view at Marlborough Contemporary’s London exhibition space.
Lee’s work in the show takes a decidedly restrained pathway through a range of materials and images. The show, which takes cues from the expanse of sculptural readymades and the more nuanced conceptual practice of Duchamp (particularly the erotics of the machine, presents a range of automotive components as avatars for the engines of desire and love, with the muffler assembly presented as a particularly apt metaphor for the give and take of sex and a metaphorical respiratory system of exchange, combustion and release. On one pedestal, a gleaming muffler sits with a banana chained to it, emblazoned with a pair of interconnected hearts that adds a stark mechanistic aura to the work while underscoring varied sexual iconographies present. Even the show’s title is a thinly veiled sexual allusion.
The show is offered particular conceptual and visual potency by its stripped down nature, each object doing considerable lifting for the show’s themes, while rarely bending under the weight of Lee’s subject matter. Standing in as light-handed allusions to the ever-present hand of modern technological advancement, and perhaps even the raw speed of the advancement itself, Lee’s show seems to interrogate the linguistic slippage that seems to dot a world where human forms and identities are ever more aligned with the tools and techniques that they embrace. Even in a show so quiet in its formal presence, Lee’s portrait of modernity carries a strikingly loud note.
…banana in your tailpipe is on view through February 3rd.
— D. Creahan
Marlborough Contemporary [Exhibition Site]