The works at Anicka Yi’s Divorce, which was on view at 47 Canal until Sunday June 8th, felt like something of a series of scenarios: moments of banal chores, sexual trysts and social interaction that work together to create a sense of disjointed narrative. Incorporating many of the art world’s currently popular tropes, particularly household materials and industrial approaches to display and mounting, Yi turned her objects towards a particularly personal subject: that of divorce.
Pulling from a disparate set of techniques, approaches and materials, Yi’s works included a wall of embedded DVD’s coated in a thick, dripping layer of honey, a series of cardboard and plexiglass boxes filled with snails, an inflatable set of screens displaying comical messages and personal rants, and a pair of washing machine doors, opening into black tunnels where viewers can inhale a set of sickly, pungent odors. The works constantly referred to subtle undertones of disaster and decay, relationships slowly losing strength or desperation hidden in the humor of a lonely text. Nearby, Yi suspended a glass case displaying a set of hearts encased in a resin sculpture of perfectly shaped abs, love and desire placed clinically on display.
Sex and isolation, desire and despair were the focal point of Divorce, but always lurking just under the surface. Yi treated her works with a careful pairing of elements and affects, allowing the simple assemblages to work in tandem, between their material composition and their ultimate impact. The powerful scents of Washing Away of Wrongs was made all the more striking by the familiarity and comfort of its simple domestic imagery, both playing against the panic of darkness the viewer feels when sticking their head inside the work as suggested.
The contrasts of material and approach worked well for Yi here, turning each work into a diorama, a moment in a shared story that felt unified by the texts constantly scrolling across one wall. The pieces conjured up a dissonance between the white gallery walls and the intensely personal moments Yi sought to explore here. They vacillated between internal and external, between moments of emotional honesty and disaffected exhibitionism that ultimately played off the nature of the show itself. Yi seemed intent on exploring these psychologically fraught moments of modern love, but was unable to separate her own interests from the context of exhibition, from the work’s historical vantage point in contemporary practice, and so sought to charge these same objects with her own political agendas.
— D. Creahan