ARTFORUM | Critics' Picks: Leelee Chan - Core Sample

Todd Meyers, Artforum, March 2, 2019

Leelee Chan describes her small sculptures as the broken things in her life, artifacts of the everyday, that she recomposes and reanimates into totems, which possess cosmologies all their own. Just beyond the entrance to "Core Sample" are six works made with materials that have been discarded or overlooked. A fractured ceramic teapot lid, Styrofoam, and some dabs of pink pigment make up Catcher, 2015-17, while Squeezer #2, 2018, consists of a dish sponge, a broken hair clip, and cast concrete that all seem to balance precariously, impossibly, on a vacuum cleaner part. Navel, 2018, constructed of rose-colored polystyrene packaging, seashells, and resin, is presented on a pedestal, its ethnological display suggesting both a cryptic and remote significance. Like so many of the objects in this exhibition, Spine, 2019, a row of wheels lined against the wall, might be something out of an anatomy museum for the uncanny. There is no call to figure out what these objects once were-they inhabit the present just as they are.

Repose (Marine), 2019, is given its own room. A scavenged black plastic shipping pallet turned upright, with small blocks of blue resin framed by polystyrene packaging and concrete, it gives the impression of stained glass and produces a mesmerizing prism of light and shadow. This is where the smaller totems come to worship--in fact, dozens of little "acorn barnacles" made of black plastic, concrete, and enormous metal nuts are scattered across the floor. Engaged in devotion, these parishioners seem to recognize something which we have no access to but nevertheless recognize as profound.