In the Galleries: Ruri Yi

February 17, 2023

The capsule-shaped forms in Ruri Yi’s hard-edge abstractions are arranged so methodically that the occasional deviation can appear dramatic — or comic. In her Hemphill Artworks show, the Korea-born Baltimore artist stacks or lines up identically shaped tablets of various flat, bright colors on white backgrounds with machine-like precision. A few of the paintings allow a capsule’s orientation to skew ever so slightly, so it touches or overlaps the adjacent one as if it slipped on a banana peel. The shift is slight, but the effect is arresting.

Yi also hazards a few variations that are more systematic. Some of the paintings employ tombstone-like icons — essentially capsules with the bottom curve flattened — and among these are compositions in which the colors are mostly dark and in a narrower range. Two pictures place multihued forms on red or blue backdrops, which complicates and heightens the color contrasts. There’s also a painting executed all in whites, grays and shades of green. This grid of cool, close hues proves as engrossing as the arrays of hotter, dissimilar ones.

In an interview published by the gallery, Yi declines to interpret her work. But she does allow that she’s inspired by elements of both built and natural environments, including “the corner of a building” or “the unique curves scattered in natural landscapes.” Because Yi’s forms are regular in shape and size, they appear more architectural than organic. They could also be seen as akin to Shohei Fujimoto’s airy edifices, but constructed of color rather than light.

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