Collage artist Peter Yumi hasn't exactly been in hiding the last five years, though he's rarely shown any work in galleries during that time. But he has been busy in the studio and sharing work with other artists on the Internet, and in 2015, he'll be back on gallery walls, beginning with a two-person outing with Lyle West that opens tomorrow at Ironton. On January 23, he'll also take on a curatorial role for Something/Nothing, a group show opening at Vertigo Art Space. We caught up with Yumi to talk about his big year and what's been going on in his studio.
Westword: Start by telling me a little about the work you're showing at Ironton. Is there a theme?
Peter Yumi: The work that I am showing is part of a collection called "life," which is about uncovering or unwrapping the parts of oneself that one doesn't even know are there.
How do you approach that theme in the work, then?
A couple of years ago, I found a giant piece of Christmas wrapping paper floating down Navajo Street, and I thought this paper that had once wrapped a gift -- which I saw as the idea of the self/body, discarded and thrown away -- was one of the saddest things I had seen. So I started collecting and cutting up vintage wrapping paper and using it to hide and uncover the imagery in my work, most of which comes from old magazines or found photos. I am really trying to express this part of human nature that is in a constant state of reinvention.
Is this something you expect to continue exploring, or are you moving on to something else?
I want to carry on with a similar theme, I am working on a series now called Tough Men/Sexy Women, which is really about identity and self as they appear on the Internet and in magazines. This current series consists of large inkjet prints, but for the new series, I am working on panels and using more paint and screen printing. Essentially, I want to further explore this idea that once we strip away the BS of who we think we are, we have to ask what is really there.
When will we get to see this work?
I'm planning on showing the large panels at Helikon Gallery in September with Naomi Scheck. We've found a kinship in our work and have become great friends the past year.
Looking forward to that. Is there any kind of interaction going on between yours and Lyle West's at Ironton?
Lyle and I hadn't met before the date was set at Ironton, but our work has some eerie similarities: "His work has a tremendous magnetic pull to it and is explosive in its energy."
Anything else you'd like to say about your work and agenda in 2015?
This year is starting off with a bang: I am also curating a show at Vertigo Art Space this month called Something/Nothing. It is, in a way, a companion to the Ironton show, as it's a collection of work by artists who have influenced my own direction over the past five years. Later this month, I will be included in Next Gallery's Beyond Erotic group show, as well.
What were you looking for in curating the show? Are there any particular similarities, differences or connections going on in the work?
I wanted to share work that I felt demonstrated how, when the mind is relaxed/bored, one can begin to see things that are not intended. The mind has a tendency to make things up when it's bored or when one is relaxed, and I wanted the work in this show to reflect that idea of something valuable coming out of a state of nothingness.
I'm assuming you do that in your own work, too?
I do. When I work in my studio, I oftentimes will sit and look at my work or the work of others online and "meditate," and see where that observation/state of boredom takes me. So a lot of the work in this show is from artists I have followed online for the past few years and whose work has deeply influenced my own.
What kind of response do you hope this kind of works will elicit from viewers?
I am not sure how people will react, but I am hoping that it makes people feel good, and I hope that people can learn to appreciate a little boredom in their lives. There was a recent story on NPR about how we are so attached to our cell phones and technology that we don't allow for boredom, and studies have shown that boredom is actually what inspires our most creative ideas.
Is there anything else you'd like people to know? Why do certain artists inspire you more than others?
I find that the artists who inspire me the most are the ones who have discipline and work hard at communicating ideas. I think talent is exceedingly rare, and that hard work and discipline from an artist are the doorways to really creating works with meaning.
I read this in As It Is, a book by Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche about meditation a while back, and I think it really gels with what I hope the exhibit communicates: "An appearance can only exist if there is a mind that beholds it. The "beholding" of that appearance is nothing other than experience; that is what actually takes place...All the elements are vividly distinguished as long as the mind fixates on them. Yet they are nothing but a mere presence, an appearance. When the mind doesn't apprehend, hold or fixate on what is experienced...'reality' loses its solid, obstructing quality."
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The show of new work by Lyle West and Peter Yumi debuts with a reception from 6 to 9 p.m. January 16 and runs through February 21 at Ironton. Admission is free; visit the gallery website for information. Something/Nothing opens with a reception from 6 to 9 p.m. January 23 at Vertigo and runs through February 15. Learn more about Peter Yumi and his collage work online.
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