Robot Open Sesame - Yui Kugimiya

14 January - 22 February 2017 Taymour Grahne Gallery

Taymour Grahne Gallery is pleased to present Robot Open Sesame, a series of new paintings by Brooklyn-based Japanese artist Yui Kugimiya exploring the delicate tension between positive and negative space.


Soft blobs of pastel color float in a hazy sea of white. These shapes have presence and weight, yet they disorientate the eye, for they appear only half there, intransient beings with one foot in another world. It is this precise balance between the there and not there that has come to define Kugimiya’s paintings. They stand in contrast to earlier animation work, in which thick lashings of vibrantly colored impasto swirled in stop-motion whorls to produce striking animations. Here, the aesthetic is pared right back, the product of a thin, smooth surface and light color palette. The stillness of the pieces acts almost in direct opposition to animation, a dissolution and unfolding of the dense pictorial narrative that animation work projects.


Within its stillness, Kugimiya’s work hides a duality. She draws inspiration through everyday social, as well as solitary activities. Human behaviors spark narratives, and it is at the meeting point of the mundane and the absurd that her minimalist works find their conception. She dances deftly between constructing and experiencing, the known and unknown, the physical and intangible. The relationship between these various elements creates a prism through which isolation and inclusion can be viewed as two facets of the same whole.


These dualities find life in splashes of color, at times soft pastel, at others strong and bold, isolated and self-contained amidst stretches of plain canvas. In an almost philosophical approach of seeking being and nothingness, Kugimiya purposely leaves areas of the canvas blank, with no paint at all, to build on the tension between that which exists and that which does not. Alone, each blob is an entity in itself – together, they create their own power dynamic, highlighted against the negative space. While small, precise brushstrokes border on the mechanical, leaving little mark of the painter’s hand, these works are not impersonalized, for they find their expressiveness in the intensity of paint and color. The painted and unpainted co-exist in harmonious tension; deep green and pink sing to each other, while grid-like rectangles remain separated by the thinnest expanse of raw canvas – floating apart and yet together. Within Robot Open Sesame, it is up to the viewer to unlock these layers – for inside each delicately painted canvas lie moments waiting to be cracked open.


Yui Kugimiya (1981, Tokyo), earned an MFA in painting from Yale University School of Art in 2007. Recent shows include Naked Table, Galeria Enrique Guerrero, Mexico City (2016) and East River, Marlborough Chelsea, New York (2014), while group exhibitions include A Verdant Summer, Taymour Grahne Gallery, New York (2016). Her works are in the collections of MoMA, New York, and Everson Museum of Art, New York.