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Thaniel Ion Lee

The Ideal Viewer

March 2 - May 27 3rd floor gallery

Born in 1976 in Portsmouth, Virginia, Lee moved to the Louisville area around age three. He spent a few years enrolled in college art classes, but decided to forge his own path free from the constraints of formal art training.  For nearly two decades Lee has been one of Louisville’s most active and adventurous artists with an extensive exhibition history both regionally and beyond.


Operating within the traditions of Dada, Art Brut and 20th century conceptualism, Lee locates the absurdities within everyday life, finding beauty in the ordinary and the grotesque. Using photography, painting, drawing, and sculpture, Lee’s early work was guided by concerns of the body, often his own, and by a cathartic exchange of ideas about mobility. After eschewing traditional media in a set of video performances and text-based works inspired by conceptualist examinations of the art making process, Lee began employing his fellow local artists in a set of instructional projects that confronted issues of authorship and furthered his personal inquiries into the physicality of creative practice.


Thaniel Ion Lee “The Ideal Viewer” brings together examples from Lee’s past projects with his most recent drawings depicting spectral humanoid creatures engaged in cabalistic rituals set amid densely drawn labyrinthine backgrounds. Inspired by sci-fi, horror, and imagery associated with dark magic, these newer works conflate Lee’s focus on branded bodies with art historical fixations on religion, sexuality and death. Within the scope of the work on display in the exhibition Lee draws from multiple artistic periods, modes of art making that encompass the vanitas still lifes of the 16th and 17th centuries and underground heavy metal illustration, as well as the rule-based creativity of Sol LeWitt and the poetic masochism of artists Bob Flanagan and Carolee Schneemann.


The exhibition confronts audiences with Lee’s evolving use and portrayals of disparate bodies by implicating the viewer in a set of challenges to customary displays of art. Staged and hung according to the specific heights of friends and luminaries this survey of Lee’s work from the past two decades places KMAC in a dialogue about museum accessibility, subverting institutional hierarchy and standardized modes of viewership.

Thaniel Ion Lee,  2017, 20" x 30" Giclee print on ultrasmooth paper 

Collection of Leigh Maroni 

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