Leaning Over the Edge

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Lest We Forget

Ruri Yi: Abstract Non/Binaries at Guest Spot
by Terence Hannum

I’ve invested a considerable amount of time with hard edge abstraction. It is something dear to me. Given the resurgence of interest in work using this as a defining element from the intense Carmen Herrera exhibition at the Whitney Museum that just opened to the Frank Stella retrospective earlier at the same institution. The edge has arrived back at a time when one would least expect it. Or perhaps, if we are to consider Boethius, the wheel of time has spun around to consider an era anew at a time where an audience is able to receive it.

It’s hard not to consider this cycle of time when considering the approximately sixteen acrylic with graphite paintings in Ruri Yi’s Abstract Non/Binaries at Guest Spot. Each of the pieces owe as much to the hard edge and its history in abstraction as they do to their own intrinsic logic as movements within a cycle.


Take the largest “Untitled” work in the show, a 42” square canvas suspending a flat blue diamond within it over a matte gray background. This blue diamond is asserted and then is divided further by a white isosceles triangle on the right, and rimmed beyond that white triangle by black. This is a minimal series of divisions on the plane of the painting. Nothing tilts us back into any interior space, the surface and its flatness is reinforced many times really bringing us to the edge itself.

The edge fascinates me, because just when you think you have exhausted its capabilities there are so many more. It is worth investigating what an edge can do; divide, delineate, assist in juxtaposing one section to another, it can reveal, it can hide, it can fold, it can both add and remove space, and many other actions. Of course when discussing painting of any type one must think not only of the edges of the forms but the edge of the ground.


Nowhere is this more clear than in Yi’s pieces like the “Untitled” 16” x 16” and 18” x 18” square pieces that feel improbably brought to life by folding like some transparent origami. We are not given a sense of static forms suspended over flat grounds but pieces of folded regions flattened like a template.

The dilemma with painting in general is that it has ceded ground and no longer asserts that it will hold the wall. That it will, no matter its size or subject, hold our attention. For sure it is not the sole fault of painting, there is a lot of competition out there, but in its confusion and identity crisis there tends to be a dip into nostalgia, like hard-edge abstraction, which holds some modicum of solution, or at the least a territory worthy of further investigation.


In Yi’s work there is a certain sense of illusion being encouraged because some of her paintings dislike their surface and then turn over the edge. This turn betrays the painting in a way, by hiding along the sides. It’s as they are dodging of the frontality of painting’s surface and pushing these exquisitely crafted works towards an almost sculptural edifice.

If the edges are considered, than why not the walls, a la Peter Halley? Or the ceiling or floor for that matter?

Pushing past the surface and continuing these blunt moves of color and tone from the surface to the edge begins to open another chapter of questions about the art object and the nature of painting. What was at first an image, bold and able to carve an impression, has become an object that kicks open a door into a whole other category of understanding that deserves further sculptural considerations.



RURI YI : Abstract Non/Binaries is up at Guest Spot at the Reinstitute through Saturday October 15, 2016, with a closing reception Saturday October 15, 2016 2pm-4pm.

Author Terence Hannum is a Baltimore based visual artist and musician who performs solo, with the avant-metal band Locrian (Relapse Records) and the dark synthpop duo The Holy Circle. Hannum is an Assitant Professor of Art at Stevenson University. He has had solo exhibitions at Guest Spot (Baltimore), Western Exhibitions (Chicago, IL), Stevenson University, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Gallery 400 at UIC (Chicago, IL).  And in group shows at TSA (Brooklyn, NY), sophiajacob (Baltimore, MD), Allegra La Viola (NYC), City Ice Arts (Kansas City, MO) & Jonathan Ferrara Gallery (New Orleans, LA).

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