As part of MoMA’s online exhibition Companion Pieces: New Photography 2020, we’re introducing the work of one participating artist per week, from September 28 through November 16. This week focuses on the work of Dionne Lee. The audio recordings below are excerpted from Zoom conversations between curator Lucy Gallun and the artists.
In Dionne Lee’s work, the landscape is a refuge as well as a site of trauma. It’s a dichotomy she recognizes as inherent in her own identity: “Holding those two truths at once...grounds me in understanding my relationship to those spaces.” Growing up in Harlem, near Central Park, Lee (American, born 1988) did not know about the history of Seneca Village, the 19th-century settlement founded by free Black Americans; later, they were forcibly removed from the land by eminent domain to make way for the construction of the park that would one day provide Lee’s first experience of the “natural world.” Now, making and teaching photography in Northern California, she examines the history of American landscape photography, asking questions about who captured these images of the land and what the images were used for. Lee’s works are created through manipulation and multiplication; among other methods, she utilizes double exposures, scanning, collage, and added graphite. The works are frequently an amalgam of images she’s taken and images she’s found, and she appreciates the ambiguity that exists between them. One source of her imagery is wilderness survival manuals, which are geared toward teaching skills; in other works, Lee practices and performs these skills herself, re-embodying the actions and signs that have been used by others for generations.
Dionne Lee. True North. 2019
Together on the ground to form the base. 2019
AA O KK. 2019
Loose Structure. 2019
Surface Tension. 2019
Broken Signal. 2019
Breaking Wave. 2018