My first encounter with Haeri Yoo was at a group exhibition back in 2010 at the Chelsea Art Museum (now closed) for “Abstraction Revisited” where she showed with the likes of the abstract greats like Sam Francis, Larry Poons, and Lee Krasner. Her work stood up on its own as I distinctly remembered the vibrant color scheme, bold brushstrokes, and the large scale that contained it. It was a pleasure last November 15th to attend her opening reception at Thomas Erben gallery. The punchy colors and scale was still there along with smaller interesting works as well.
“Running Pit” showcased the dynamic work of opposing dichotomies that Yoo has perfected in her career. Mobile (2012) skillfully straddled the line between narrative and abstraction with its swaths of blues, greens and other vibrant colors cutting into human forms that struggle to meld with the color fields. Pale (2012) had a jumbled field of rioting brushstrokes and forms that are somewhat contained on the top three quarters of the canvas, which also revealed ghostly heads with impressions of faces. The large scale of her work draws you into the push and pull contrasting forces that keep it energetic and one engrossed of the hidden stories contained within. Her Korean background is paramount to the fast brushstrokes akin to calligraphy but her relentless pursuit to define her own way is the stalwart character of her work. The color palette is soft and of feminine sensibility but the brash lines and chaotic composition is what keeps it from being trite. This balancing act is typical of Yoo’s oeuvre and this show takes it into full throttle.
The smaller works took on a total scheme of red shades and reflective bits of material that made the limited space a study in control but retaining that burst of energy. Here’s where she delves into the challenge. Without the luxury of a large canvas to make huge swaths of brushstrokes and cram it with a complex composition, the diminutive works become careful and edited translations of her method in creating her signature work. Instinctively Yoo ran with it but with an editing eye and shrewd restraint. That in itself is excruciating for an artist therefore the bloodletting quality in them resonated but it paid off.
Haeri Yoo chose to run down into the pit of uncertainty without a safety net and gave us contrasting works that are evocative in elemental styles and scale. It proves her artistry is not hindered by complacency.
Haeri Yoo: Running Pit/ On View: November 15, 2012 – January 12, 2013
Gallery Hours: Tuesday to Saturday (10 am – 6 pm)
Thomas Erben Gallery. 526 West 26th Street, 4th Floor. NYC, NY 10001
art review by: Oscar A. Laluyan
art images c/o Thomas Erben Gallery courtesy of the artist
event photography by: Deukyun Hwang