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Yeon Ji Yoo
Brooklyn, NY
Website: yeonjiyoo.com
Neighborhood: Red Hook



ARTIST STATEMENT: I have lived in New York most of my life, but I am a native of South Korea. Having immigrated to the United States with my family in 1982, most of my knowledge of the mother country and the rural farmland I was born on are locked in as memories. As a result, my work today is indelibly marked by remembrances and the childlike awe which shaped them; mother hens towering above me, dark shadows cast in a forest at night, and the cycle of life happening before me, day in, day out. Of my work, a large body of it is tied together by the delicate (yet dependable) and robust (yet fickle) bonds that make and break us at our cores. My work examines different facets of severance and presents eulogies through autopsies, as well as depicts the release and acquisition of nutrients.

The presence of dust and dirt signify that aging and decomposition have begun. Dust falls from our skin as if we leave a trail to signify our course of living. Dust means there has been a long enough history to compile. The dirt is nutriment and feeds the stores of seeds that hold my memories. Smells and textures, sounds and images trigger the recurrence of a memory like the wind that shifts stale air trapped inside a drawer closed for a long time. Like a time portal, that opened drawer drags and pushes into my brain all the things I have forgotten. The dirt on my studio floor is the bed of my own garden. I am constantly walking in my private grove of trees that grew from seeds of long before. I try to find the richest fruits, a manifestation of my richest nourishment.

I think about movement and sound and come to a childhood memory. There was a road that cut across the small town to home, stemming from the bus station where relatives visiting from Seoul would get dropped off, to the small market area with one tiny candy store and two or three still bicycles, past the open and verdant rice fields, past the cow tied to a tree, and through the dark pine woods. These trees would be tall, bending, limbs gnarled, with tufts of spiky needles all over. They were majestic during the day and menacing at night. These were the trees that ghost stories came from. These were the silent homes of a million living things and a million dead things.

In my studio, I am thinking about the night and dark shapes with grasping limbs. Everything else is about beetles, dragonflies, and fertile soil. Fertile soil is dark, almost black. It is the black that results from decay and decomposition that roots eventually invade and claim. White is the color of grace, forgiveness, and mourning. The sun washes away the darkness of nightmares and leaves everything sterile and in a sense, allows a new growth period. In small places and large places, there is always a fight happening. It always ends with the inevitable downfall of one side, a loss, a life surrendered. I use this cycle as a metaphor for my ties to my immediate surroundings and influences, my memories, and the eventual loss of these treasures.

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