Anicka Yi brings third installment of trilogy to Transformer Station
By Kristen Mott
South Korean artist Anicka Yi isn’t afraid to push boundaries. Much of her art intertwines human emotion with organic materials that change and evolve over time. Her abstract sculptures aim to engage multiple senses simultaneously.
“Her work is mostly sculpture, but it doesn’t really behave like sculpture,” says Beau Rutland, assistant curator for contemporary art at the Cleveland Museum of Art. “Sometimes the works fall apart or will mold and decay, while other times they take the shape of a perfume and waft away. They reference daily life in really beautiful ways.”
Yi’s newest exhibition, “Death,” will make its premiere Oct. 11 at CMA’s Transformer Station – in the Hingetown district of Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood. The exhibition is part of a trilogy that stems from the idea of heartbreak and what happens after a person falls in and out of love, Rutland says.
The first exhibition was “Denial,” which premiered in Berlin, followed by “Divorce” in New York City, and now there’s “Death” in Cleveland, which runs through Jan. 17, 2015.
Rutland says Yi incorporates everyday items into her artwork, such as aluminum, brass knobs and tissues. She also enjoys toying with the idea of transparency.
“A lot of her work deals with transparency – some of it is see-through, some of her paintings are made of soap. Even transparency in terms of Edward Snowden leaking government information. She’s had some videos that referenced that in her exhibitions,” Rutland says.
“Death” includes about eight pieces that represent the idea of closing one chapter and moving forward, Rutland says.
“What’s interesting about this show is it includes older works so it’s not just brand-new pieces,” he says. “It’s looking back almost on a past life that she’s produced in the past few years.”
One piece in the exhibition, “Sister,” is a wall-based sculpture composed of a bright red turtleneck with a bouquet of flowers above it to symbolize a human head. Each flower has been purposely tempura-fried by Yi.
“Over the period of the exhibition, the ‘head’ begins to wilt and droop and oil drips on the sweater and falls on the floor beneath it,” Rutland explains. “It literally looks like the woman is starting to sob. It’s very otherworldly but instantly a relatable object that has a human presence.”
A new addition to the Cleveland exhibition is an installation of two dryer doors. Visitors are allowed to open each door and stick their head inside each chamber. The chambers are connected to scent diffusers that contain distinct fragrances Yi developed with the help of a master perfumer.
“One fragrance will be sort of what Anicka envisioned as the state of our troubled society, and the other one she describes as the beginning of all things. I think it will be a really incredible sculpture for visitors to engage with and think about,” Rutland says.
The venue itself will be transformed for the exhibition. Rutland says the space that houses the art will incorporate a new rubber flooring system and accompanying bright red walls.
“It sort of gives us this very bloody, almost romantic color, but in the same sense the rubber is very sterile. It’s sort of pushing the idea of a morgue or somewhere with a little more romantic charge to it,” Rutland says.
Transformer Station, which opened to the public in its current form in early 2013, is starting to feature more contemporary artwork. Rutland believes Yi’s “Death” exhibition is a perfect fit for the gallery.
“A lot of people who come there are looking for things that sort of push the boundaries of things we know and things we’ve experienced,” he says. “Anicka is an incredibly thoughtful artists who isn’t concerned with what her art is labeled as. She just makes it.” CV
*Lead image: “Washing Away of Wrongs,” 2014. Anicka Yi (Korean, b. 1971). 2 stainless steel dryer doors, Plexiglas, diffuser, 2 fragrances; 304.8 x 332.74 x 67.31 cm, installation dimensions variable. Photo credit: Joerg Lohse. Photo courtesy of 47 Canal, New York.