Few artists in the past decade have outlined a more exploratory and incisive practice than Anicka Yi. Focusing on foreign agencies and complicit interactions with non-human actors, the artist’s interest in biology and ecology has seen her utilize bacteria, scent, and animal performers in her works, ultimately arriving at a practice that defies easy material or media classification. Yet here, in Yi’s first solo exhibition with Gladstone Gallery, the artist has turned to painting as a central tentpost of her practice, and presents a body of works that seem to function as a complement and study of the materials so often present in her other works.
Yi has long experimented with paintings, often using their tenets and signifiers as a jumping off point to create her rich tapestries of material and chance. Yet here, figuration takes center stage. Borne from the artist’s early experiments with painting, in which the artist created canvas-like configurations with glycerin soap and various found materials, the works in this exhibition continue upon Yi’s exploration of imagemaking through an implementation of inventive approaches. Depicting both recognizable and abstracted forms, such as painterly brushstrokes and washes of color, to blood cells and fish eggs, scratched and ruptured skin, polyps and crustaceans, and the undulations of a deep ocean floor, these textural and sculptural compositions demonstrate the artist’s imaginative ability to depict forms in space. Working beyond the confines of two dimensions, these works interrogate painting’s mythical associations with individual authorship and the physical body and human agency of the painter.
Dense layers of acrylic, interlaid on the canvas and swirled into thick whorls and clumps of material, take on a striking engagement with the microscopic. Alluding to material subjects as mentioned above, Yi then takes these images as an abstract for embellishment and reimagining, turning their role as reflections of a microscopic world into one of texture and space, writ large in the gallery. Teh result is a conceptual operation that makes these referents take on a new life, one bound less by the act of looking beyond the human eye’s ability, and more on the notion of making these worlds outside our perception take on a new, and animated, life.
The show closes November 12th.
– D. Creahan
Anicka Yi at Gladstone [Exhibition Site]