'Spectives' exhibition "all about looking"

What defines the relationship between a retrospective and an introspective? Prefixes.

Artist Jim Lee describes his exhibition, “Spectives,” as “all about looking,” via retrospective, introspective, perspective and more. “Spectives,” which opened at the Carrack Modern Art on Tuesday, is a dynamic exploration of Lee’s past and present work. The elements of the exhibit are composed in such a way to form a comprehensive space within the Carrack, a gallery located in the heart of downtown Durham.

“Spectives” contains an eclectic array of Lee’s projects throughout the last few years, including photography, sculpture, multimedia art and a miniature exhibit-within-exhibit display of artifacts from the Rock Nest Monster, one of Lee’s imagined creations. The creature reflects the artist’s more fictitious pursuits that stand in contrast to his documentary-style portrait photography work in Senegal, Ghana and Nigeria from the 2000s.

“Looking back, forward, inward, and out. I understand that in terms of where he is in his artistic career, but also in terms of each piece, this ‘looking inward and out’ quality,” said Laura Ritchie, co-founder and gallery director of the Carrack. “He has several photographs of this amazing texture that happens when gourds get moldy, and I don’t think you’d realize if you knew that because they’re so beautiful. Then, up front, he has several immaculately finished gourd sculptures. They almost become a completely different object. You see two different stages of this natural object’s life. And that’s just a small part of the exhibit. This is happening all over, different views of the same subject or object.”

This broad variety of work seems right at home at the Carrack Modern Art. “It fits in perfectly with our narrative,” Ritchie said. “One of the unique things about the Carrack is artists have complete artistic freedom and can use all the square footage, not just the walls. As a whole, he very successfully utilizes the space.”

Lee, who has shown his work in shows and galleries around the Triangle, creates a delicate balance between cohesion and range in “Spectives.”

“I had no idea that Jim was an artist who could work in such a diverse range of media,” said Ritchie. “I’ve seen a few isolated pieces, but I had no idea he was so multifaceted. And there’s a coherence to all of it.”

Despite this perceived lucidity, Lee denies any central message to this collection, instead suggesting that it can’t be constrained in this way.

“There’s a range of things covered, so there’s no one answer to what I’m trying to convey,” Lee said. “There are things in there that are absolutely funny, and things that are tragic and about real human condition. ‘Spectives,’ for me, is a time to share the multiple facets of what I do and how I think.”

The Carrack Modern Art was founded in non-commercial ideals. It has housed a variety of visual and performance artists with freedom from fees and commercial pressures. Lee’s relationship with the Carrack has developed alongside the Carrack’s relationship with Durham.

“[Lee] has been very involved in terms of volunteering his time and contributing to the building of conversation about the Carrack,” said Ritchie, particularly noting the Carrack’s word-of-mouth approach to business.

“I try to be as supportive as I can. I would like to see [the Carrack] survive and become a viable resource for the community,” said Lee.

“Spectives” will be on display at The Carrack Modern Art until December 6.


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