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June Yong Lee
Blue Sky Gallery, Portland, Oregon
Recommendation by Richard Speer

June Yong Lee, from ''Torso Series,'' 2010, archival pigment print, 30 x 53''.


Continuing through September 1, 2013


There is nothing so familiar as our own bodies, yet June Yong Lee’s "Torso Series" turns the familiar foreign, bidding us glimpse the corps humain as if for the first time. The artist, born in South Korea and now based in Pennsylvania, photographs his subjects’ bare torsos, sides, and backs, then digitally morphs the images into studies that conflate dermatology with topography. The resulting images are rectangular, though they actually portray a figure in the round; this format simultaneously democratizes the images, and thereby the notion of the body itself, and stresses the differences among particular bodies.  


Throughout this series the anatomical elements on display are constant: armpits, mammaries, bellies, and navels — but oh, what a gamut lies in the details! How lean or full are the breasts and pecs; how bushy, stubbly, or bare are the underarms; what stories do scars and tattoos intimate; what pigmentation reveals of race or sun exposure in the absence of other information. How do we connect the dots between freckles, birthmarks, and stretch marks without succumbing to the mind’s tendency toward physiognomy? Yong’s works reveal everything and nothing about their subjects, turning individual morsels of skin and bones into ciphers and archetypes. They are as much examinations of viewers’ assumptions as they are of subjects’ flesh.

Blue Sky / Oregon Center for Photographic Arts

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