LOYAL is proud to present Hiejin Yoo’s solo exhibition AM/PM 11:44 a new group of eleven oil paintings installed over the two floors of the gallery in Stockholm. Hiejin Yoo’s world is spun from simple elements she instills with potential. The painter constantly rummages through memories and sits with them, metamorphosizing internally until she materializes on the canvas. Botanical aspects merge with interiors, seasides with night skies. For this exhibition Yoo elaborates upon the ideas she’s been working through over several years in her work, seeking to communicate her worldview with universalizing strategies.
In an essay for The New Yorker, Haruki Murakami details his transition from jazz club owner to full time novelist, which brought with it a new routine that involves a daily run. Sleeping habits and diet enter the fold too, as Murakami paints the portrait of a more considered, yet pared down lifestyle. He lays it out in simple terms, “I’m definitely a morning person. That’s when I can focus. Afterward, I work out or do errands that don’t take much concentration. At the end of the day, I relax, read, or listen to music.” The mundane is respun into a deliberate order of operations, one that is injected with purpose and allows for the space to meander around in thought.
Yoo likewise paints as she sorts through prosaic souvenirs. With the current exhibition, she reinforces her proclivity for enhanced banality. Yoo aims to create paintings that reach out to viewers, prompting a shared interest in the minutiae of daily life. She recognizes an ongoing crisis of patience - or lack thereof - and counters the trend by marinating in thoughtful resolve. This tendency was triggered by the slowness Yoo recognized in her dog, who takes his time sniffing and looking around at everything. A gentle reminder that things can be so simple, yet blossom out into dimensional experience. What’s more, Yoo recognizes her own lived experience as a painter being consigned to head underwater, perpetually overwhelmed by compositional ideas.
The artist visualizes this tendency in a work titled Enlightenment, which sees a quartet of flowers blooming from a woman’s head as she sits beside a Tiffany lamp, its shade bearing a rose motif. The nocturnal scene mirrors Yoo’s own ritual and tendency to be caught between day and night as future paintings swirl about in her head. In the evening she habitually meditates under the flow of a singular lamp, her mind freed to conjure and contort potential compositional fodder. As she’s gotten older, Yoo’s dreams have started to err on the supernatural. These nighttime revelations further invigorate her creative impulse.
These are surrealistically bent paintings borne from Yoo’s mind-images. Initially spurred by an idea, the artist allows it to bounce around in her mind until something concrete emerges and she’s driven to compose a picture. In a series of gestures, she expatiates the preliminary drive until it becomes a swell of shapes and colors. She interweaves graphic elements with sentimental ones, creating a psychedelia of rich color and exacted formalism. The characteristically golden rays of Los Angeles, too, are funneled into Yoo’s images, though she also captures something verging on the supernatural. Neon greens and unbelievable purples act as luminous substitutes in certain images, contributing to a hallucinogenic appeal.
Love and melancholy are here tangled up in images of longing. Hands first appeared in Yoo’s work as a nod toward a long distance relationship that has since transformed to one in a shared city. Her partner lived in Chicago and the will to remember his touch motivated Yoo to communicate a pining for his embrace. As such, ghost limbs entered the fold and remain present despite their shared home in Los Angeles. Yoo’s hands and arms are often braided through the fore and background, creating a dynamic spatial landscape. Yoo’s romantic relationship has thus become intermingled with daily life, which she continues to pluck from. Her exact context puts her in direct relation to nature, as the coastal city boasts plantlife that was at one time alien to the artist.
Consequently, Yoo’s frequently deposits elements from the natural world; Green hillsides, beaches, and flowers are mainstays in her pictures. In one such example, Pleasure Jaunt, large red and orange flora bloom at the fore, with arms peeking out from behind yellow and green stems. The wonderfully outsized poppies in this picture recall the work of Tom Wesselmann, whose exaggerated forms in a painting like Gina’s Hand serves as a historical precedent for the young artist’s compositional landscape. Yoo also returns to the still lifes of Mary Fedden, the artists sharing a distinct penchant for quotidian poetics. David Hockney’s invocation of Los Angelinian color is blended with Alex Katz’s discrete gestures as well, as Yoo sorts through contents from the past.
So it goes, love and light are infused in images where landscape meets the human body. Yoo’s mosaics of limbs, nature, and modern art aspects engender semi-figurative whirlpools borne from the artist’s imagination. 11:44, composed of angel numbers, represents the time Yoo became attached to at the age of 17. Over the course of nearly 20 years, she’s habitually met the clock as it struck this time - day or night. The numbers, denoting love, trust in oneself, and the affirmation of life, communicate something specific for Yoo. Her attunement here courses through the work, as she frees the everyday to the realm of possibility.
–Reilly Davidson, New York, Nov 2023
Hiejin Yoo (born 1987 in Münster, Germany and raised in South Korea) lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. She graduated from UCLA’s MFA program in 2018 after receiving a Post Baccalaureate from the Art Institute of Chicago in 2015, BFA from The School of The Art Institute of Chicago in 2014, and BA from Seoul Womenʼs University, Seoul, South Korea in 2011. Yoo has a forthcoming solo exhibition with GANA Art (Seoul). This is her first solo exhibition with Loyal (Stockholm). She has previously mounted solo exhibitions at Half Gallery in both New York and Los Angeles. Group exhibitions include FLAG Art Foundation (New York), Giovanni’s Room (Los Angeles), Loyal at El Royale (Los Angeles), PlanX Gallery (Milan), Stems Gallery (Brussels), Spurs Gallery (Beijing), Almine Rech (Brussels), König Galerie (Berlin), Woaw Gallery (Hong Kong), Sow & Tailor at Waow Gallery (Hong Kong), Blum and Poe (Los Angeles). Yoo’s work is included in several permanent collections including High Museum of Art (Atlanta), Perez Art Museum (Miami), Institute of Contemporary Art (Miami), The FLAG Art Foundation (New York).