Artist to Watch
Behind the scenes with Jason Yi
Artist Jason S. Yi works on the installation in his Milwaukee studio.
PHOTO COURTESY OF MMoCA
This post is part of a new series covering the ongoing installation of Jason S. Yi: A Fragile Permanence at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. Check back weekly for updates.
Epic Sculpture Challenges Traditional Landscapes
August 21, 2014
PHOTO BY EMILY RAPPLEYE
Those white strips are long strip of duct tape.
As Jason S. Yi: A Fragile Permanence at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art nears completion, the view of the site-specific installation is awe-inspiring. Stark white mountain peaks loom tall overhead, practically scraping the ceiling of the State Street Gallery. The epic proportions of the sculpture mean viewers must experience the tectonic form up close. Caught between the massive form and the sharp silver pattern on the walls, Jason Yi’s installation evokes the rugged sublimity of actual mountain landscapes. “It’s much bigger than I expected,” Yi says. Though the sculpture component is still only about two-thirds finished, it commands the gallery space.
“Slowly, people are fading away from me,” Yi says as the building process continues. The artist anticipated this dynamic. He hopes people are imagining what could be going on behind the sculpture as they catch glimpses of Yi and his team at work.
“It’s been grueling, but fun working with all these different people—the museum staff, my assistants,” Yi says. “I definitely feel great that everyone contributed.”
Finishing touches and final decisions are being made as Yi experiments with the lighting and his assistants stretch the last long strips of white duct tape down the side of the structure to the floor. The crew already used one hundred rolls of duct tape for the outer structure of the sculpture, or the “skin,” as Yi calls it. Once the next shipment arrives, they will have one hundred more on hand to finish out the project.
That’s a lot of duct tape—but the crew may need extra on hand. Every day, one or two of the pieces of tape loses its adhesive grip on the wood and falls to the floor. The fragile nature of the materials challenges the imposing strength of the massive form. Yet Yi doesn’t seem to mind; it only adds to the tension he was aiming to create. Through this work, Yi explores themes of duality and contradiction through landscape, light and materials.
The exhibition is meant to provoke feelings of nostalgia in viewers, a longing for a connection to our natural landscape. With more exposure, however, the utilitarian materials and seemingly unstable construction eat away at this connection, leaving viewers questioning their experience.
“There are no romantic feelings about duct tape,” Yi says.
Experience the finished work firsthand this Friday, August 22 from 6–9 p.m. at the MMoCA Nights opening celebration. Yi will give a gallery talk at 6:30 p.m. The exhibition will be on display through November 9. For more information, visit mmoca.org.
Limited Time Only: State Street Vantage Points
August 13, 2014
PHOTO BY EMILY RAPPLEYE
A look through the installation and out onto State Street
Views of A Fragile Permanence are steadily changing through the glass on State Street. With each day, artist Jason Yi changes the landscape in MMoCA’s State Street Gallery, obscuring old scenes and producing new. The silver pattern grows along the back wall, only to be blotted out by the massive sculpture swelling in the center of the gallery.
“People are seeing a different work every time [they walk by],” Yi says. “They are never going to see it through this space again.”
For now, street observers have a unique vantage point of the back wall. From a distance, they can see everything happening in the gallery at once. When Yi is finished building, his sculpture will block this view of the work.
Last week’s buckets of wooden slats now crisscross and lean to create a three dimensional maze of supports in the center of the gallery. Observers can still see into the core of the structure, where Yi places the newest pieces of wood. Sprouting outward the artist tacks on thinner, more varied pieces of recycled wood. The older wood appears more fragile, Yi explains, and its weathered look adds a visual history to the new work.
White duct tape pours down the structure, spilling onto the floor. The tape swirls at the peak of the structure, dropping more severely as it nears the ground. The momentum of the tape is meant to portray gravity, Yi says. The white peaks are slowly engulfing the center gallery walls.
In the next week, Yi plans to extend the silver bolts of tape over the front windows. He will be working directly up against the glass barrier to the street. Pedestrians can get super close to the process; literally inches away from the artist’s knife through the glass. Almost a work of performance art in itself, Yi’s installation process is meant to demystify the artistic process.
“Art is not so far away from everyday life,” Yi says. During museum hours, the public can enter the gallery and watch Yi build and make aesthetic decisions in real time. Yi hopes the audience’s varying experiences with the installation over time will open a discussion about the contemporary artwork.
Discuss the work with Jason Yi over lunch this Thursday, August 14 in MMoCA’s Rooftop Sculpture Garden. RSVP online at eventbrite.com.
Can’t make it? Check out videos of Yi and his team at work at mmoca.org.
State Street Gallery Lights Up As Installation Begins
August 8, 2014
PHOTO BY EMILY RAPLLEYE
The silver tape will eventually become wider and create lightning bolt-like forms along the walls and floor at MMoCA.
Milwaukee sculpture artist Jason Yi is baring it all in the State Street gallery at Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. On Monday, he turned on a new set of LED lamps, shedding cool blue light on an unusual scene, visible from the street. For the next three weeks, Madisonians can watch the artistic process unfold as Yi builds his site-specific installation, Jason S. Yi: A Fragile Permanence.
This week, the installation is in the beginning stages. Huge buckets explode with wooden slats, a blue print on the floor outlines the massive sculpture to come and a jagged silver pattern is forming down the back wall. A team is hard at work mapping the wall pattern, which will extend over all four walls of the gallery, including the front window. But just as the installation’s name suggests, nothing is permanent yet. Surprises are already popping up.
“I work pretty instinctively,” Yi says. “I try to go with the moment and go in a way that feels right for me, aesthetically speaking.” When Yi and his team applied the first lines of silver tape onto the back wall and floor of the gallery, he discovered rays of light reflected up off the floor where the tape meets the ground. Now, the artist is working to see how he can manipulate the room’s lighting to enhance features of the installation, which explains the new set of LED lamps standing in the corner.
Yi plans to make the silver line of tape wider until thick lightning bolt shapes flash down the walls, floor and ceiling. Since the thin tape picks up the texture of the surface it is applied to, it will become mirror-like on the smooth windows and floors, reflecting the images of those looking on. As viewers walk across the floor patterns, Yi hopes to break down the barrier of preciousness between the audience and his art, complicating the viewer’s relationship to the sculpture. For now, Yi’s main concern is running out of material—the silver tape is hard to come by.
As for the buckets of wooden slats, Yi scavenged Milwaukee lumber mills for weeks and collected pieces from past projects for this installation. The wood will form the jumbled inner structure of the main sculpture. He will begin building the skeleton of the mountainous form this week, which will engulf the three walls in the center of the gallery. Once the structure is finished, it will be taller than the gallery windows, obscuring some views of the installation from the street.
Until then, passers-by have an unobscured view of the process. “It’s going to be an open book,” Yi says. As A Fragile Permanence unfolds in the State Street Gallery, check back for weekly updates and inside commentary from Jason Yi about his work.
Plus, next Thursday, August 14, get a chance to lunch with Yi in MMoCA’s Rooftop Sculpture Garden and talk about his artistic process. mmoca.org