Tina Kim Gallery is pleased to announce the first solo exhibition of Jennifer Tee, Ancestral Beginnings, Sessile Beings. Following her recent exhibition at Kunstinstituut Melly, co-produced with Secession, this major New York debut represents an opportunity to encounter Tee’s wide-ranging practice that comprises research, performance, installation, textiles, collage, and sculpture.
Jennifer Tee is known for her experimental, interdisciplinary practice, unencumbered by delineations in form. But it is through traversing various media and using versatile approaches that Tee examines and questions the cultural, psychological, and socio-political resonances in materiality as they relate to the history of migration and colonialism. Inherent to these considerations is the inseparable relationship between spirit and matter, evoking André Breton’s phrase “the soul in limbo” from his 1928 surrealist novel Nadja. This phrase serves as the raison d’etre for Tee’s works – as it encompasses the idea of what is alive, but restless, caught in an in-between, unnamable space. While this notion allows one to contemplate cross-cultural identity, loss of language, tradition, and the movement of natural commodities, it also allows one to go beyond – to spiritual realms – refusing essentialization. Tee’s works equally honor the lineage of modernists such as Hilma af Klint, where art and abstraction were a vehicle for occultism, as well as her Chinese-Indonesian and Dutch ancestry.
Ancestral Beginnings, Sessile Beings will showcase multiple series of works such as hand-knit floor pieces, ceramics, and pineapple cloth tapestries. But the magnum opus of the exhibition are her Tampan Tulips, which are part of a seasonal serial work Tee has developed for close to a decade. These series of collages are made from pressed tulip petals, with motifs taken from the Tampan, square-shaped woven cloths that were exchanged during important rites of passage. Tampan are found in the Lampung region of southern Sumatra, a crucial trade route since antiquity, a crossroads of cultures and traditions. Predominantly featuring ships with a mast that often branches out into a tree of life, the tampan is evocative of human souls continuing onto new lives. The reference to migration is of particular interest to Tee, as her father migrated with his parents and sister to the Netherlands from Indonesia on a ship in the 1950s. The geometric and mirrored patterns visualize the orders of society as well as the universe and are seen as portals leading from the material to the spiritual world.
For Tee, the conceptual crux of the Tampan series is based on a living, performative cycle that is directed and guided by the environment. Each year, she awaits the tulip harvest, whose yield determines her work. While collages with pressed tulip petals are part of this rhythm, also essential are the piezographies, which are scans of the petal collages. These piezographies for Tee are like x-rays of a body – or a picture of one’s young self-memorialized – while the archive tulip petal collage represents the body that is alive and aging. The piezography as a document is further heightened by Tee’s interest and research in systems of language such as hieroglyphics, ancient philosophies, and ethnography. The piezography is akin to messages from another world.
Placed in an environment of ceramic domes, knitted floor pieces, and pineapple cloth tapestries, all of Tee’s works point toward the vulnerable relationship between nature and culture, language and perception, beauty and destruction, while exploring how all of these ideas play into questions of land rights, nationality, belonging, and ecology. Her quixotic environments can often be activated, engendering their own rituals. Real worlds and a world in calling thus flow together, both physically and mentally, becoming an important metaphorical binding thread. Therefore, while Tee evokes ideas of migration, Ancestral Beginnings, Sessile Beings exceeds that very notion as she longs to return to or redefine humanity’s place in our natural environment and the cosmos. To behave more like sessile beings, immovable, embedded within ecological time.
On the occasion of Jennifer Tee’s opening reception, the Tina Kim Gallery welcomes poet Lara Mimosa Montes to activate Tee’s floorpiece, Crystalline floorpiece / Sanguine Sea. The reading performance is part of Tee’s curated eco-stacks poetry reading, and will take place at 7 PM on Thursday, February 15, 2024. The schedule of next readings that will take place during the exhibition with additional readers is forthcoming.
Jennifer Tee (b. 1973, Arnhem) lives and works in Amsterdam NL. She studied at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy of Art and Design, Amsterdam; at Sandberg Institute (MFA), Amsterdam; at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam. She was a resident artist at the Rijksakademie, Amsterdam and ISCP, New York US. She was awarded among others the Amsterdam Prize for the Arts, AFK, Amsterdam NL (2020); Cobra Art Prize Amstelveen, Cobra Museum of Modern Art together with the City of Amstelveen NL (2015); Uriot-prijs, Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam NL (2000 & 2001); Prix de Rome, Amsterdam NL (1999); GRA-award for fine arts, Gerrit Rietveld Academy, Amsterdam NL (1998).
Lara Mimosa Montes is a writer, editor, and teaching artist whose practices span the fields of alternative publishing and experimental writing. She is the author of THRESHOLES (Coffee House Press, 2020) and The Somnambulist (Horse Less Press, 2016). Her writing has appeared in BOMB, Futurepoem, The Institute for Studies on Latin American Art, and elsewhere. In 2018, she was awarded a CantoMundo Fellowship as well as a McKnight Fellowship in Poetry. She teaches in XE: Experimental Humanities and Social Engagement Master’s program at NYU, and divides her time between Minneapolis and New York. Her writing practice gravitates toward processes and
phenomena that exhibit change or transformation as their defining features.
Tina Kim Gallery is widely recognized for its unique programming that emphasizes international contemporary artists, historical overviews, and independent curatorial projects. The gallery has built a platform for emerging and established artists by working closely with over twenty artists and Estates, including Pacita Abad, Ghada Amer, Tania Pérez Córdova, and Mire Lee, amongst others. Our expanding program of Asian-American and Asian diasporic artists, including Maia Ruth Lee, Minoru Niizuma, and Wook-Kyung Choi, evince the gallery’s commitment to pushing the conversation beyond national frameworks.
Founded in 2001, the gallery opened the doors to its ground-floor Chelsea exhibition space in 2014. The gallery was instrumental in introducing Korean Dansaekhwa artists such as Park Seo-Bo, Ha Chong-Hyun, and Kim Tschang-Yeul to an international audience, establishing public and institutional awareness of this critically influential group of Asian Post-War artists. The gallery partners regularly with prominent curators, scholars, and writers to produce exhibitions and publications of rigor and critical resonance.