Yuri Yuan (b. 1996 in Harbin, China) is a painter based in New York, NY. She has received a BFA from Art Institute of Chicago and a MFA from Columbia University. Yuan was a recipient of the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation scholarship in 2020, and the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation Grant in 2019. Yuan has exhibited work at Center for the Arts, Umbria, Italy; Make Room Los Angeles; and Asia Art Center,Taipei. Yuan recently had a solo show at Alexander Berggruen, New York.


Q: Tell us about your practice

A: I am a storyteller who uses the language of painting to create surrealist narratives that explore existentialist themes of longing, alienation, and loss.

Q: The title of your upcoming show, The Great Swimmer, at Make Room has a fascinating backstory. Can you share with us where it comes from and why you chose it?

A: It is from a fragment by Kafka that was never published. I think it was based on his dreams. It is about an Olympic-winning swimmer who revealed at the award ceremony that he/she does not know how to swim, nor is he from the country he represented. I resonated with the sense of absurdity and alienation that lies within the author’s subconscious.


Q: There seems to be two different palettes that you used to create this body of work. Can you elaborate on the duality of the exhibition?

A: This duality of the exhibition is a result of formal (two sets of color palettes representing different times of the day), conceptual (fragmentation of the ego), narrative (two sides of a story, two personas of a person), and curatorial (Make Room Gallery’s two rooms) decisions. These choices inform and enhance each other.


Q: What has been inspiring you lately?

A: Visual language in films and narratives in short stories and essays.


“What I love most about Yuri’s paintings is that they have a vivid resemblance to film stills. From the framing of the image to the smallest details. The movement created allows for life and story outside the canvas itself.”



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