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Urban Isolation: Figurative Paintings by York Chang and Yu Ji

November 15 - December 7, 2006

Urban Isolation, an exhibition featuring 35 incisive figurative paintings by the two Los Angeles artists York Chang and Yu Ji, will open on November 15 in the University Art Gallery, CSU Dominguez Hills, and continue through December 7, 2006. The two artists infuse their brilliantly colored realist paintings of the urban scene with drama. York Chang will exhibit his paintings of isolated figures in motion and cropped at unusual angles, all the inherent stress of a fast paced life coalesces in his work. Yu Ji will exhibit his urban scenes of figures in a coffee shop or taking part in some inexplicable disaster in the city. While existing in a group setting, his figures remain completely alone.

Both artists have exhibited extensively in Southern California and their work has been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions. York Chang serves as a Commissioner of the Los Angeles City Cultural Affairs Commission. Yu Ji is an assistant professor in the art department at CSU Long Beach.

An opening reception for the artists will take place on November 15, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., and a conversation with the two artists will be held in conjunction with the opening at 6:00 p.m. in the University Art Gallery. The exhibition and related events are sponsored by the Instructionally Related Activities Committee of the Associated Students, Inc.

York Chang - artist's statement

I'm constantly searching for random strange beauty in a single frame, that bit of visual poetry buried in the rough that moves me. I like the sense of secret things hidden just under the surface waiting to be excavated, that throwaway image that was discarded once as flawed but now I've found. When I see something that I respond to, I capture it, sometimes only in my mind's eye, so I can reinterpret it later. I carry a bag with me everywhere I go filled with old mass media images, random Polaroid's, sketches and newspaper clippings, and I wait for the seeds of these collected visual ideas to take root, to fire my imagination, so that I can't help but paint it.

I like the idea of chaotic modern life as art, where everything is possibly a painting. When you don't know what is coming next, or whether you will experience it again, life becomes more vibrant and beautiful. I want to see the world in more than just a few primary colors and a few standard images, and express it with all of the tints and hues that tell our eyes that something is real and worth looking at again. What excites me is to build a body of work that gives me the freedom to work all of these things out as I move through the arc of my life; what moves me is when people grace me with a moment of their time and uncover evidence of higher meaning in this always shifting and ever restless creative process.

In the Urban Isolation exhibit, these are throwaway paintings, an exploration of the relationship between the disposable mass media culture of our modern visual environment and the anachronistic, but uniquely enduring expressive characteristics of painting. These paintings are drawn from the tropes and characteristics of everyday, banal imagery which have been visually marginalized: the accidental blurs and overexposed flash of amateur snapshots; photographic "mistakes" where faces are blocked or cropped out; family photos oxidized by time and memory; digital images with their idiosyncratic pixilated colors. By painting these images with oil and canvas, the context of the image is transformed and the meaning of the images are excavated and elevated. Making these paintings is a redemptive process for me, challenging viewers to see things they might not have noticed before, encouraging them to view a part of their world in a different light, and unearthing the hidden loveliness of an image that might otherwise be trashed for its flaws. Not every throwaway photo makes a throwaway painting, of course. I look for spontaneity in images, particular visual cues from which we implicitly read a certain unchoreographed and genuine quality that is at the heart of what is most beautiful in life and art.


Yu Ji - artist's statement

As a figurative painter, I am very much concerned with the technical and aesthetic tradition of painting. The themes of my work are generally taken from my observations of social situations in contemporary urban settings.

In my work, human figures are often depicted in ethnically and racially mixed groups situated in a confined space which, in a sense, is a metaphor of my own self-search. I believe my painting is a response to experiences of personal survival in a cultural environment very different from my own up-bringing.

Methods in my approach to painted form include sketching from direct observation, working on the spot, composition studies and studio painting. Based on first hand visual information, compositions are developed with a stress on abstract structures as the psychological background to the final completion. Color in my work has been minimized to a limited palette, while the pictorial space is often constructed through an ambiguous balance between a flat shallow depth and immediate foreground. The treatment of the light source is also an important factor in composition to open the pictorial space.

Images in my work are portrayed through a mode of realist representation and are often read as an uneasy or uncomfortable antithesis to commercial, illustrative sentimentalities. My goal in painting is to reach a wider range of viewers with an educated and critical eye, and achieve visual connections through the figurative representation between the viewer, the art work, and observed realities.

(above: York Chang, Anonymous [after Carol])


(above: York Chang, Verguenza, 2005)


(above: York Chang, Zenith [after Personal Velocity])


(above: York Chang, Anonymous [after Robin])


(above: York Chang, The Thief [after the wind-up bird chronicle])


(above: Yu Ji, Rail Track, Charcoal, conte crayon, ink on paper)


(above: Yu Ji, Early February, Charcoal on paper)


(above: Yu Ji, From 2278, Moments Unchained, 2006, Oil on canvas)


(above: Yu Ji, From 2278, Moments Unchained, 2006, Oil on canvas) 

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