Million Masks of God – Arthur Kwon Lee

November 12 - December 6, 2020

168 Suffolk St.


Trotter&Sholer is pleased to announce Million Masks of God, a solo exhibition by Arthur Kwon Lee. This exhibition explores Lee’s enduring interest in mythology and the confluence of disparate theologies and philosophies. Inspired by the work of G.K. Chesterton, a philosopher, lay theologian, and literary and art critic, Million Masks of God takes its name from his poem, Gold Leaves. In Gold Leaves, Chesterton writes, “But now a great thing in the street, Seems any human nod, Where shift in strange democracy, The million masks of God.” Lee’s work offers viewers the many faces, and he does so with a punch of color and a sense of wonder.

In addition to Chesterton, Lee finds inspiration in the works of diverse writers such as Alan Watts, Joseph Campbell, Jonathan Haidt, and Sigmund Freud. Much as Lee draws his inspiration from many sources, his works are generally comprised of many marks and figures. Oceanic State, for example, is comprised of several floating figures both human and animal. Close inspection of this painting reveals additional figures that are almost hidden in his composition and within the very marks that make them up. According to Freud, an oceanic feeling was a sense of being one with the external universe. Freud’s colleague Romain Rolland suggested that this feeling was the source of all religious energy.

Central to much of Lee’s work is a conversation between East and West. American born and raised, Lee is connected to his Korean roots and interested in Asian philosophy, religion, and storytelling. Frequent visits to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and time spent with inspiring writers are revealed through Lee’s work. Bhagwan & His Followers, for example, depicts Bhagwan Shri Ranjessh, better known as Osho, a controversial mystic from India who established a commune in Oregon. Osho’s teachings were not static and he enjoyed paradox. Lee was interested in Osho’s appeal to primarily rich Westerners who were willing to forgo major components of their lives in pursuit of enlightenment.

Lee’s unreserved use of color and spontaneous gestural painting style at first camouflage the detail and specificity in his work. Each additional minute spent with a new painting is likely to reveal a new element. As the viewer spends time look- ing, Lee’s deliberate use of color theory and contrasting hues begins to play with their vision. The figures in the paintings often begin to float and take on a life away from the canvas itself. Lee’s liberal use of color in particular lends his work a jovial and light quality making big and difficult subjects more easily approachable.

Million Masks of God by Arthur Kwon Lee will be on view at 168 Suffolk Street, New York, NY Until Dec. 6th, 2020.

Virtual Tour