Hun Chung Lee’s Playful Ceramic Furniture Comes to Life at R & Company in New York

Mar 16, 2016 8:20PM

If a single word could capture Hun Chung Lee’s current show at R & Company, it would be “play.” For “The Act of Artwork,” the furniture designer/artist/architect fills the New York space with his curvy, blobby, and bright ceramic objects. The touch of the artist’s hand is clearly felt in each piece.

Lee’s work falls somewhere between sculpture and furniture. Though most of the works can be used functionally (as stools, tables, sinks, etc.), they also operate as aesthetic objects in their own right. In fact, their arrangement in the gallery creates the sense of his work being an interconnected, all-encompassing installation. For instance, on one wall, Lee hangs a group of brightly glazed ceramic “tiles” as though they were paintings.

This indeterminacy is a crucial component of his furniture. When someone buys a piece, “I don’t want to give them too much information,” Lee says. “I hope they decide [what the piece is] by themselves. I hope they feel, they enjoy it….I hope they create by themselves.” At one point in our conversation, Lee gestured toward a three-legged stool and cheerfully imagined that its owner might transform it into a massive sushi plate. The possibilities are seemingly endless, bound only by the user’s imagination.

This sense of openness carries over to Lee’s process. While he must meticulously plan out his wooden and concrete works, the designs for his ceramic pieces are only revealed as he goes along; Lee can’t claim with complete certainty what his furniture will look like until it emerges, fired and finished, from the kiln.

At one point, Lee took me over to Sculptural soaking tub in glazed ceramic with footstool (2016), a large, multicolored bathtub. Though he covered the base of the tub in a greenish glaze, a blob in the center mysteriously turned purple, for reasons Lee still doesn’t understand.

We then stopped for a moment at one of his tile paintings. “I cannot create this,” Lee said. “Nature—fire—finished it by itself.”

—A. Wagner

The Act of Artwork” is on view at R & Company, New York, Mar. 1–Apr. 21, 2016.

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