Blum & Poe is pleased to present an exhibition of recent work by Michael Ho, Su Yu-Xin, and Hiroka Yamashita. All born in 1991, they each conjure material and metaphysical landscapes and excavate notions of earth and environs as zones where psychological elements can be performed or confronted. Their respective bodies of work are shown here as three strata of varying depth: the aboveground, the liminal, and the subterranean.
Born in Hualien, Taiwan, Su Yu-Xin has an academic background in techniques associated with nihonga, or “Japanese-style painting” that binds pigments derived from natural ingredients like minerals, shells, or semi-precious stones with glue made from animal hide. She collects and processes these materials, lifts them from the earth’s crust, and invents a new order on blocks of hand-formed wood where terrains are formed in dense layers of color and flowing linework. Other paintings appear as diagrams and infographics that classify the substances that make up our physical world or track forces of nature as they shift in tandem with human intervention. Embedded within the tactility of Su’s work is an awareness of anthropogenic hazards on micro and macroecological systems, as well as an engagement with the history of painting as a formalist, aesthetic tradition and a function of modern economic and cultural systems.
Concealed in Hiroka Yamashita’s landscapes are figments of the mind’s eye, ghostly figures rolled into mountain ranges and whisked into the atmosphere in varying states of dissolution. Born in Hyogo, Japan, Yamashita draws inspiration from a relationship with her ancestral land, the spiritually fertile landscape of the Okayama countryside where she currently resides, and the practice of daily routines living in communion with nature and local communities. Here, in the border region between foothills and surrounding flatlands, human settlements greet the wild and the literal diffuses into the figurative. The curious theater of her work appears less as a dream from a singular imagination and more as an articulation of a collective psyche, a congregation of local deities in harmony with surrounding forests and the changing seasons.
Through an ashen veil that permeates Michael Ho’s work, we sink into the underground, the cavernous subconscious where artifacts left from eras of colonialism, experiences of otherness, queerness, folklores, and memories of loved ones passed lie dormant. Pressing layers of paint from the back of the canvas to the front before composing the final image, Ho’s practice of traversing from one side to the other speaks to his familiarity with navigating the in-between as a second-generation Chinese immigrant born in the Netherlands and growing up in Germany. This movement between perimeters is shown in the narrative of Into the Shores of the Night, where we see the legs of a galloping horse suspended in mid-motion just above a liquid surface, but the image of its body is obscured through fluid refractions. Just as the anthropomorphic horses from Jean Cocteau’s Testament of Orpheus tempt the bard away from his waking life, Ho’s black horse similarly leads us into the underworld, treading through pools of groundwater and enigmatic prairies.
Despite having grown up in diverse cultural contexts and moving through the world on unique paths, Ho, Su, and Yamashita return to the soil, depicting organic environments as metaphors for or carriers of more profound states of being and depths of perception. In their lava beds, mountainous borderlands, and grottoes cast in twilight lies an invitation for the viewer to reconnect with deeper, sedimentary layers of their own geological horizons.