Austin Lee’s Feels Good at Jeffery Deitch by Valerie McPhail

Dear Shaded Viewers,

Animation is Jeffrey Deitch’s genre. Characteristically, the American curator fosters a buoyant spirit of art that runs through his commissions, leaving an impression that stimulates, makes people feel good. The pop and pixilated define Deitch’s mark  on the art world. A paradigm experience possessed 18 Wooster Street. Deitch’s gallery space laid with a curation of sculpture, portraiture and cheerful landscape prints by Austin Lee.

Cheesin’ smiles, fast cars, blossomed flowers, and doting hearts, all cultural symbols of pleasure, become related objects of Lee’s work in life-size sculptures and exaggerated form on canvas. Shaky lines from digital penmanship turn into such images — including, one of a man jamming out on a drive with his convertible top down. This painting called, “Great Again,” implies one of few presidential postures noteworthy of the exhibition, title included. Is the cartoon character a candidate on his campaign drive or a classic image of a cruise ride,” ” Walk,” a sculpture piece of a play dough man triumphantly walking with a raised universal peace sign, dispels coincidence. The cartoon statue appears familiar to the public face of our national president.


“Great Again” Austin Lee, Feels Good , Jeffrey Deitch, New York, 2019 Photo by Genevieve Hanson


Jokes and impressions aside, this is a happy place.  The representing gallery explains, “Lee ‘humanizes’ the digital, transforming images that began as digital sketches [Photoshop and computerized tools] into lush paintings and vibrant sketches. ” A pink pony gallivanting to deliver a bouquet of tulips and the infamous rainbow smiley face, icon to the exhibition, shines a light on the artist’s headspace. At the core of the exhibition is a playful expression of art created from a response to the current – politics, Instagram likes, and faith in the digital world.


“People” Austin Lee, Feels Good , Jeffrey Deitch, New York, 2019 Photo by Genevieve Hanson

The installment morphs a playground environment of Deitch’s gallery location, a floor plan of multilevel walking area with intimate niche-sized rooms.  Expansive space, beams of color, and caricature subjects coexist in a world illustrative of indulgent pleasure and freedom. The transformation continued in a partitioned space: a balcony, overlooking the large-scale area. This portion of the show lined portraits of people coming to life by the strokes of an airbrush. These faces represent recent guests to Lee’s studio. A head of blonde hair, large noises characterized by nostrils, high cheekbones and bushy eyebrows distinguish humans. “Describ[ing] them as being more about capturing a feeling than a likeness. ” I work on them until they feel like someone is there.” Claimed the artist.  Alongside the assembly is an expanding portrait of a man on a cross: ” Jesus.”  His presence suggests that He too recently entered the artist’s studio.


“Jesus” Austin Lee, Feels Good , Jeffrey Deitch, New York, 2019 Photo by Genevieve Hanson


Though ambiguous, revelation presents itself: life is sunshine and rainbows through the digital world. Lee’s art experiments with how culture engages with technology. His emotive art form expresses a happiness response. More than the neon colors that gravitate appeal to his work, there is a retreat to focus on technique that leads the brain to seek reason for the how and why in art.  Simplicity feels good. Austin Lee hit the spot.


“Flowers” Austin Lee, Feels Good , Jeffrey Deitch, New York, 2019 Photo by Genevieve Hanson


Valerie McPhail

Valerie McPhail is a New York-based writer on things of style and artistic expression. She has a portfolio of writing for both fashion and art publications. Although she enjoys covering fashion news and supporting new designers, her favorite subject to explore is the experience of fashion and how life is communicated through clothing. She believes there is a lot to be said about this.