What is it?
Jason Yi (b. Seoul, South Korea 1963)
Legend of the White Snake
PVC tubes and connectors
144 x 264 x 108 in.
Gifted 2018, West Bend Friends of Sculpture
About the Work
Jason Yi’s conceptually driven work most prominently takes the form of sculpture and site-specific installation. Born and raised in Seoul until the age of eleven, Yi had a bi-cultural orientation even before he and his family came to the United States. His father was a landscape artist who was equally adept in rendering the form in the Asian tradition of ink on paper and in Western-style oil painting on canvas. Yi was fascinated by his father’s mastery of two different approaches to seeing and rendering the world—the artistic equivalent to being bilingual.
For his own work, Yi turned from painting in any tradition to using utilitarian materials famously associated with the Italian movement known as Arte Povera—so named for its humble materials. Yi’s site-specific installations incorporate the stuff of workaday life to produce structures that are abstract and even industrial in their specific composition yet interact to evoke a story. Metal folding chairs, plastic stretch wrap, packing foam, and drywall tape are repurposed to conjure a romantic grandeur.
Yi’s site-specific outdoor installation The Legend of the White Snake is constructed entirely of PVC tubes configured into a towering dynamic tangle. It is one of several incarnations Yi has made invoking the celebrated Chinese folk tale of a snake spirit who takes the form of a woman and falls in love only to be thwarted and imprisoned by a jealous monk. Yi’s sculpture is interpretively ambiguous, evoking Madame White Snake as well as her cage. Installed adjacent to the entrance of the Museum of Wisconsin Art, it echoes the purity of the building’s whiteness and modern geometry, yet belies that minimalism by its insistence on the twists and turns of its own white gridded framework which refuses to settle down into a classical balance.