Capp Street Project: Tim Lee

January 08, 2008 to January 10, 2009

Tim Lee was the fall 2007 Capp Street Project artist. For his first solo project for a San Francisco public arts institution, the Wattis will present an exhibition of the work he completed during his residency.

Lee's Capp Street Project traces a connection between Steve Martin's first comedy album, Let's Get Small, recorded live at San Francisco's Boarding House in 1977, and Neil Young's seminal electric/acoustic album Rust Never Sleeps, recorded live at San Francisco's Cow Palace in 1979.

On Let's Get Small Steve Martin says, now famously, "You just can't play a depressing song on the banjo." Lee had no previous experience with the banjo but decided to test this hypothesis by learning to play a song on it over the course of his residency. He selected Neil Young's "My My, Hey Hey," which Young plays acoustically on the first track of Rust Never Sleeps and electrically on the album's final track. Lee's banjo rendition of the song has been installed in the Wattis Institute elevator and represents a third, bluegrass, version. It is Lee's first-ever audio piece. In addition, a number of photographs and a new video work related to the project will be presented in the Wattis Institute galleries from January 8-February 2, 2008, as part of the ongoing Passengers exhibition.

Lee's artistic practice is concerned with public figures from sports, art history, and popular culture. He examines key moments in the careers of particular individuals and explores how these moments relate to a larger cultural history. In the case of Neil Young and Steve Martin, he looked at the various ways in which the musician and the comedian struggled with the public's expectations of their creativity—how Young's constant transformations have surprised, and sometimes confounded, his audience, and how Martin became trapped in his first comic persona and later transformed himself to reassert his creative freedom.