Lee, Pamela M. 1967–

views updated

Lee, Pamela M. 1967–

(Pamela Margot Lee)


Born January 27, 1967. Education: Yale University, B.A., Harvard University, Ph.D.


Office—Stanford University, Department of Art and Art History, Nathan Cummings Art Bldg., Stanford, CA 94305. E-mail—[email protected]


Stanford University, Stanford, CA, associate professor of art history, 2000—.


Predoctoral fellowship from Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts; postdoctoral fellowship from Getty Research Institute.



Souvenir of Siteseeing: Travel and Tourism in Contemporary Art, Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, NY), 1991.

(With Christine Mehring) Drawing Is Another Kind of Language: Recent American Drawings from a New York Private Collection, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA), 1997.

Object to Be Destroyed: The Work of Gordon Matta-Clark, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 2000.

(With Nicholas Baume and Jonathan Flatley) Sol LeWitt: Incomplete Open Cubes, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art (Hartford, CT), 2001.

Josephine Pryde: Serena, Kunstverein Braunschweig (Braunschweig, Germany), 2001.

Chronophobia: On Time in the Art of the 1960s, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 2004.

(With Matthew Higgs and Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe) Uta Barth, Phaidon (London, England), 2004.

Contributor to journals, including October, Artforum, Assemblage, Grey Room, Parkett, and Texte zur Kunst. Object to Be Destroyed has been translated into French.


Pamela M. Lee is an art historian whose area of expertise is the late modernism of the 1960s and 1970s. The art, theory, and criticism of this period are the subject of her research and writing. Her publications include Object to Be Destroyed: The Work of Gordon Matta-Clark, Chronophobia: On Time in the Art of the 1960s, and Uta Barth, concerning the well-known photographer Barth and her work.

Object to Be Destroyed is a commentary on the work of Gordon Matta-Clark, an American artist. He was the son of two artists: Roberto Matta, a surrealist painter from Chile, and Anne Clark, an American. Matta-Clark attended Cornell University and studied architecture, but never practiced it. He studied in Paris for a time during the 1960s and while there, came under the influence of the French deconstructionists, such as Guy Debord. Their radical thoughts on reusing artistic elements to create new works influenced some of Matta-Clark's most famous creations, which used existing structures, but made drastic alterations to them. His "building cuts" are probably his best-known work; in creating them, Matta-Clark cut away various sections of abandoned houses to reveal new perspectives on the buildings and their surroundings. Matta-Clark documented his works in various ways, including using photography and film. He died of pancreatic cancer when he was just thirty-five years old.

Lee is "extremely ambitious" in the scope of her book, according to Adachiara Zevi in an article in the Art Bulletin. Feeling that most commentary on the artist had been focused on his site-specific projects, "Lee promises to remedy this state of affairs," said Zevi. "How? In three ways, substantially: first, by discussing the work of this artist against the background of the artistic practices of the 1960s and 1970s, including site-specific art, process art, minimalism, and conceptual art; second, by analyzing the work in its multiple articulations, specifically, building cuts, fragments, photographs, performances, and culinary experiments; and, finally, by presenting the work as an alternative to the Hegelian model of progress." Zevi felt that "the book enriches the reader from the perspective of information and stimulates reflections on places, characters, movements, and poetics." Lee supports her thesis with "long historical and theoretical digressions," according to Zevi, but in the reviewer's opinion, these digressions are "often too drawn out and self-indulgent, [and] do not in fact seem to foster our comprehension of the work but rather almost take us further away from it."

Lee works with six themes in her study of the artist, supplementing her text with black- and-white photographs of some of Matta-Clark's work. One of the key questions Lee poses is how to deal with the paradox of his work, in that the production of much of it required destruction of the object or structure being used. In analyzing the artist's creativity, Lee discusses the young artist's home, the influence of his father—who abandoned his family when Matta-Clark was still an infant—and the influences that touched Matta-Clark while he was at Cornell. Lee documents Matta-Clark's interaction with Robert Smithson at the 1969 Earth Show, which was a pivotal moment in his artistic development. In addition, Lee discusses Matta-Clark's move to Manhattan, where for a time he worked at repairing crumbling buildings, then began developing his "building cut" method.

In her book Chronophobia, Lee "revisits the artistic and critical practices of the 1960s through the question of time, offering a fresh account of the relationship between postwar art and technology," stated Stefan Jovanovic in a review for Parachute: Contemporary Art Magazine. Lee suggests that, in various ways, the art of the 1960s reveals an underlying anxiety about time. According to James Meyer, a contributor to the Art Bulletin: "To be ‘contemporary’ since the 1960s, Lee claims, is to suffer from this feeling of perpetual presentness, this sense of time that is constant and without conclusion." In the first part of Chronophobia, Lee demarcates the boundaries of her discussion by contrasting the debate on late modern technocracy, advanced by Herbert Marcuse, with the collaborative works that involved both artists and industry, sponsored at that time by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Lee also discusses an influential essay of the time, "Art and Objecthood," by Michael Fried. In the book's second part, the author discusses Op Art and kinetic art in relation to technology and time. She discusses the role of time in such key works of the 1960s as Andy Warhol's film Empire and in the work of On Kawara. Lee's book is "an original and welcome contribution" to the study of art in the 1960s, according to Jovanovic.

Meyer observed that "chronophobia" is not so much a real fear of time as a fear of being unable to contain it. Various technological advances, including space travel, television broadcasting, and the proliferation of computers have disrupted humankind's sense of time. Because this disruption occurred during the 1960s, people are still in some ways trapped in the 1960s, according to Lee's thesis. Meyer explained: "The metaphor of a temporal relay linking that epoch and the present speaks to the dual ambition of Lee's project. Chronophobia is both a history of temporal effects in 1960s art and a relation of our contemporaneity." Meyer found some humorous notes in the book, as in the section on the meeting of art and science, particularly the collaboration of sculptor John Chamberlain and RAND, a defense think-tank located in Southern California.

Meyer was enthusiastic about Lee's writing, observing: "The narrative style of Chronophobia is dazzlingly associative. Lee forges suggestive links between artists and thinkers one would not normally equate, or between works of high art and their mass reception. For example, her superb discussion of kinetic art hinges on an opposition between the work of Jean Tinguely and Pol Bury and, by analogy, the temporal models of Henri Bergson and Gaston Bachelard." Meyer concluded: "That Chronophobia opens up more questions than it is able to answer is a sign of its interpretative power. Lee's study overflows with fresh perceptions and unexpected conjunctures; much recent writing in the area feels lumbering in comparison. To read Lee's electric prose is to experience a nimble theoretical mind, one that is not afraid to make intuitive leaps. If contemporary art history remains a field-in-progress, it allows for the possibility of fresh narra- tives like none other—ideally, efforts like Chronophobia. With this study Lee consolidates her estimable reputation as one of the field's trailblazing practitioners."

Lee, Matthew Higgs, and Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe all contributed to Uta Barth, a work dedicated to the innovative photographer. Barth was known for her use of light and shadow, in a minimalistic, unfocused way that gave the photographs the qualities of a painting. Though Barth's work has been acclaimed, Uta Barth is the first publication to fully discuss her. Reviewing the book for Afterimage, Bruno Chalifour called it "an informative study that is very likely to satisfy its audience."



Afterimage, May 1, 2005, Bruno Chalifour, review of Uta Barth, p. 42.

Art Bulletin, September 1, 2001, Adachiara Zevi, review of Object to Be Destroyed: The Work of Gordon Matta-Clark, p. 569; December 1, 2006, James Meyer, review of Chronophobia: On Time in the Art of the 1960s, p. 781.

Art Journal, September 22, 2001, M.J. Devine, review of Object to Be Destroyed, p. 105; March 22, 2005, Robert Slifkin, review of Chronophobia, p. 109.

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, September 1, 2001, J. Weidman, review of Sol LeWitt: Incomplete Open Cubes, p. 102.

Library Journal, December 1, 2004, Mirela Roncevic, review of Uta Barth, p. 113.

Parachute: Contemporary Art Magazine, January 1, 2005, Stefan Jovanovic, review of Chronophobia, p. 142.

Reference & Research Book News, May 1, 2005, review of Uta Barth, p. 238.


MIT Press Web site,http://mitpress.mit.edu/ (April 18, 2008), author profile.

Stanford University Web site,http://art.stanford.edu/ (April 18, 2008), author profile.

About this article

Lee, Pamela M. 1967–

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article