Press Releases

Date of Release: 
Thursday, July 10, 2014
Contact Info: 

Erika Monroe-Kane, Director of Communications
608.257.0158 x 237 or

Jason S. Yi: A Fragile Permanence

Jason S. Yi: A Fragile Permanence

At the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art

August 23 – November 9, 2014

MADISON, WI – A site-specific exhibition by Jason S. Yi will be on view in the State Street Gallery and lobby of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA) from August 23 to November 9, 2014. Jason S. Yi: A Fragile Permanence will transform the State Street Gallery into a dynamic art laboratory where the artist is at work and the artistic process on view. This will be Yi’s first solo museum exhibition.

Jason S. Yi: A Fragile Permanence draws on phenomenology, contemporary installation, and the art historical tradition of landscape painting. From the spiritual significance of East Asian mountain peaks to the rugged sublimity of the American West, Yi taps into cultural mythologies of landscape as a point of departure to address visual perception, physical experience, and cognitive uncertainty.

An MMoCA Nights opening celebration for Jason S. Yi: A Fragile Permanence will take place on Friday, August 22 from 6 to 9 pm. The evening will include a gallery talk by the artist at 6:30 pm. Entrance is free for MMoCA members and $10 for non-members.

Jason S. Yi is known for his remarkable ability to transform utilitarian materials into awe-inspiring installations that resemble mountains and other tectonic landforms. He has exhibited nationally and internationally in places such as New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Chicago, Los Angeles, Japan, China, South Korea, Vietnam, Italy, and Austria. MMoCA has long been an enthusiastic supporter of Yi’s work: his installations have been included in numerous Wisconsin Triennial exhibitions, and his iconic sculpture made from PVC tubing and connectors, Legend of the White Snake, was installed for two years in the museum’s rooftop sculpture garden.

As a major component of the exhibition, Yi is building a massive three-dimensional structure spanning the length the museum’s State Street Gallery. From a distance it will look like a mountainous, snow-covered landform emerging from the floor. As visitors approach the imposing sculpture, its humble materials and seemingly unstable construction will become increasingly apparent. With an internal network of wooden slats haphazardly nailed together and vertical strips of white Duct Tape overlaying the surface, this regal monolith, white and pristine from afar, gradually morphs into an odd jumble of everyday materials. The perceived fragility of the work’s physical structure further undermines the symbolic gravitas of its impressive monumentality, thereby complicating the symbolic purity, endurance, and power of the natural world. In purposely subverting our assumptions, Yi surprises and bewilders; his work exposes the experiential effect of expectation on how we subsequently interpret the world.

The exhibition also includes a series of extensive line “drawings” made with highly reflective, metallic tape. Angled and geometric, the tape wends a jagged path across the surrounding walls and windows, even extending onto the gallery floor to interrupt the path of visitors. The tape’s mirror-like surface offers viewers a distorted image of their own reflection, prompting a heightened awareness of one’s physical presence within the space. By refracting light the shimmering drawing, though static, creates an environment that appears to be in a constant state of flux. Yi pushes the scope of his project beyond the gallery, moving onto the lobby’s prominent front wall. Again, he presents a series of artworks that hint at natural geologies while seeming to defy earth’s material constraints. A large silver sculpture creates tension by appearing impossibly heavy yet resting easily on top of a thin, wall-mounted shelf.

From the rigorously erected yet rickety wooden structure, to the immobile but ever-evolving drawing, and to the anti-gravitational mass of the lobby sculpture, the physical contradictions embodied by each of the altered materials elicit a momentary disconnect between perception and cognition. Mistaking appearance for reality, our confidence in the world around us becomes destabilized.

During the entire three-week installation period, from August 4 through August 21, the artist’s relationship with museum passersby will serve as an integral part of the exhibition. The gallery’s huge windows onto State Street render the space literally transparent, prompting Yi to engage with the psychology of curiosity and audience expectation. Although the windows naturally reveal the project’s evolution, the artist will erect a translucent veil to surround his sculptural centerpiece. By presenting the gallery as a stage to be observed from the street but obstructing the view, he heightens anticipation while thwarting gratification. Rather than a satisfying spectacle to behold, Yi’s “non-performance” teases his audience, making them aware of their outsider status. Further playing with this push and pull between concealment and exposure, anticipation and disappointment, and the informed versus the uninitiated, videographer Aaron Granat will create a series of short videos that offer an enticing glimpse into installation process. Released in periodic succession, the videos will be screened on the lobby’s State Street monitor and viewable on the museum’s website.

Jason S. Yi: A Fragile Permanence demonstrates the artist’s remarkable ability to transform materials and their surrounding architecture into an enveloping perceptual experience. On a deeper level, however, the exhibition interrogates the ambiguous domain of cultural identity. Yi and his family immigrated to the United States from South Korea when he was eleven years old. Growing up in a culturally Asian household on American soil made Yi acutely aware of the complexities surrounding place and identity. The simultaneous push toward American acculturation and nostalgic pull of his Korean heritage culminates in an unresolved tension, placing Yi in space of cultural displacement or in-betweeness.

A sense of uncertainty pervades his work: fusing the synthetic with the organic, he defamilarizes both the common materials he uses and the recognizable imagery to which his installations allude. Yi’s constructed landscapes are not just conceptual plays on the visible world. As disorienting spaces full of visual contradictions, they convey the shifting inner landscape of the artist's hybrid identity. 

Generous funding for Jason S. Yi: A Fragile Permanence has been provided by Perkins Coie, LLP; BioSentinel, INC.; MillerCoors; the Terry Family Foundation; Identi-Tape Inc.; a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and National Endowment for the Arts; and MMoCA Volunteers. 


Hours at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art are Tuesday–Thursday (noon–5 pm); Friday (noon–8 pm); Saturday (10 am–8 pm); and Sunday (noon–5 pm). The museum is closed on Mondays.

Admission to exhibitions at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art is free of charge. MMoCA is supported through memberships and through generous contributions and grants from individuals, corporations, agencies, and foundations. Important support is also generated through auxiliary group programs; special events; rental of the museum’s lobby, lecture hall, and rooftop garden; and sales through the Museum Store.

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