Anicka Yi is a conceptual artist, her work operates around a series of connections between materials and materialism, states of perishability and their relationship to meaning and value, consumerist digestion and cultural metabolism, stomachs as a biological metaphor for both the individual and society, scent and the fragrance industry as memory machine and post-humanist theory with it’s sociopolitical implications for the body and the senses.

Her interest in the sensorial stems from a desire to reorder and reconfigure the spatial and experiential terms of a predominately visual art world. Scent and tactility are two recurring themes in her work. Midcentury Olfactory Brutalism provokes one to touch – what would it be like to touch a potato chip in the context where you are not suppose to touch. And That Fork Feels Good Sliding in My Mouth is a canvas made from a scented soap. The soap paintings are a statement on Bed Bath & Beyond or designer consumer culture in general, I.e. personal hygiene, luxury, olfactory décor.

Using the prescribed (overdetermined?) forms of canvas/stretcher bar in the form of painting is a statement on “art” as decorative, hygienic (spiritual, intellectual) aspiration. The painting’s scent is a trigger of located/un-located memory and association. It draws you into a perplexing comfort while simultaneously the cold minimal canvas deters the viewer from closer proximity – an invisible boundary of the art world.

The visual experience tends to distance the viewer. The Kantian critique of aesthetic judgment assumes the role of the viewer to be one of distance and disinterestedness. The olfactory, on the other hand, encourages nearness, breaking barriers of conventional experiences of art. A “painting” has a “coded” distance built in. Yi’s work confronts the hegemony of the visual in the art world and counters it through sensorial pieces.

As a result the dichotomy between the archival, permanent, agelessness of art and the perishable, transient, contemporary plays a role in Yi’s work. The perishability of her materials exposes an uneasy relationship to the “value” often associated with art.
Each sculpture is a poem in one sense. A language building. A game of senses and signifiers. For instance, in the sculpture You Should Hire Me Because My Kiss Is On Your List, MSG fills one of the metal bowls. Why MSG? MSG could always just be the right grain of powder but it could also be something else. It’s neither nor. Depends on the syntax. There’s no right answer for why MSG? It’s equivalent to asking why De Kooning used red in Woman Painting. It could be that MSG was used because it happened to be in a shop downstairs from 179 Canal where the sculpture was composed. It could also be that MSG is very commonly used in Asian foods. The materiality is about the triangulations between the thing-itself as an aesthetic object, the language and the social/visual implications of the things. A Peircean semiotics.

Anicka Yi, photo by Sebastian Kim
Anicka Yi
Seoul, 1971
Korea, South

Past Exhibitions

Still Human

The Rubell Museum
06/12/2017 — 25/08/2018

The Hugo Boss Prize 2016: Anicka Yi, Life Is Cheap

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
21/04/2017 — 05/07/2017


Yuz Museum
04/09/2016 — 15/01/2017

Anicka Yi: Jungle Stripe

Fridericianum 29/05/2016 — 24/09/2016

No Man’s Land: Women Artists from the RFC

The Rubell Museum
02/12/2015 — 28/05/2016

Solo Shows

Life Is Cheap, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

7,070,430K of Digital Spit,Kunsthalle Basel, Switzerland
6,070,430K Of Digital Spit, MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, MA

Death,Transformer Station, Cleveland, OH
Recording Lonely Samurai, Chapter NY, New York City, NY
Divorce, 47 Canal, New York City, NY

Denial, Lars Friedrich, Berlin

Excuse Me, Your Necklace Is Leaking, Green Gallery, Milwaukee
SOUS-VIDE, 47 Canal, New York

Group Shows

Laws of Motion: Josh Kline, Jeff Koons, Cady Noland, Rosemarie Trockel, Jeff Wall, Anicka Yi, Gagosian, San Francisco
Laws of Motion, Gagosian, San Francisco

Laws of Motion: Josh Kline, Jeff Koons, Cady Noland, Rosemarie Trockel, Jeff Wall, Anicka Yi, Gagosian, Central, Hong Kong

The 2017 Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY, United States

Self, Massimo De Carlo London, London

Two Steps Forward, 47 Canal, New York City, NY
Mommy, Yale Union, Portland, OR
Sob As Nuvens: Da Paranoia Ao Sublime Digital, Museu Serralves – Museu de Arte Contemporânea, Porto
Them, Schinkel Pavillon, Berlin
Inhuman, Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel
The Radiants, Bortolami, New York City, NY

Taipei Biennial 2014, The Great Acceleration – Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei
Elusive Earths, Etablissement d’acen face projects, Brussels
Chatbots, Tongues, Denial & Various Other Abstractions, Bortolami, New York City, NY
The Registry of Promise: The Promise of Multiple Temporalities, Centre d’Art du Parc Saint Léger, Pougues-les-Eaux
De Pitura, Galleria Franco Noero, Turin

Absolut, White Flag Projects, Saint Louis, MO
Love Of Technology, Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami (MOCA), Miami, FL
12th Biennale de Lyon 2013, biennale d’art contemporain de Lyon, Lyon
Art of Living (i.e. Goodbye Blue Monday), Galerie Chez Valentin, Paris
How Far Away is Mars, T293 – Rome, Rome
Some End of Things, Museum für Gegenwartskunst – Emanuel Hoffmann-Stiftung, Basel
Some End of Things, Kunstmuseum Basel, Basel
Neo Povera, L&M Arts, Los Angeles, Venice, CA
Screens, Murray Guy, New York City, NY
O the sleeping bag contains the body but not the dreaming head, Altman Siegel Gallery, San Francisco, CA
Downtown: A View Of The Lower East Side, James Cohan Gallery – Shanghai, Shanghai

c-o-o-l art, Misako & Rosen, Tokyo
The Log-O-Rithmic, GAMeC – Galleria d´Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Bergamo, Bergamo
A Disagreeable Object, SculptureCenter, New York City, NY
Group Show, West Street Gallery, New York City, NY
You Told Me The Other Night, West Street Gallery, New York City, NY

Contacts & Details

City of birth: Seoul Country of birth: Korea, South Date of birth: 1971 Lives in: New York, USA