Charles Yuen at Pierogi

“Slippery Harmonics of Imagined Phenomena”

Charles Yuen - "Supreme Unjustice," 2022, Oil on canvas, 48 x 40 inches







11am–6pm, Wednesday–Saturday and by appointment
177 North 9th St. Brooklyn, NY 11211


Press Release

Pierogi is pleased to present Slippery Harmonics of Imagined Phenomena, a solo exhibition of recent paintings by Charles Yuen. The exhibition will open with a reception on Friday, November 4th from 6–9pm and will be on view through December 17 at 177 North 9th Street.

Developing a notion that phenomena can manifest in vibrational equivalence, Yuen presents a song list of over 14 recent oil paintings. Poetic allusions such as a library as a repository for the world’s knowledge serve as a foundation in “Wave Cancellation Field,” upon which a humor induced by ambiguity presides (is this someone doing sit-ups admonishing us on our post-covid sluggishness, or someone dying—echoing the erasure of the surrounding landscape). Similarly, “Erasure” conjures the ghosting of our environment, hinting at a human cause. “Eye Witness” and “White Out” bear witness to similar environmental themes with tragic/comic wit. In “Shroomscape” Yuen explicitly connects the library to underground mycorrhizal networks implied in a subversive, subterranean quality to the libraries invoked. Wells Chandler recently noted that “….Yuen’s work seems to ask how we receive knowledge and how wisdom is stored… (Two Coats of Paint)

If the libraries are a rhythmic foundation, a shift occurs in “Supreme Unjustice” and “Amphitheater” which reference current events and suggest the social-political networks that bind us and the mechanisms allowing them to function. In another chord change, our gaze turns somewhat inward as more personalized states of being are addressed in “Rainbow Position,” “Passage,” and “Imitating the Cosmos.” Perhaps the most alarming piece is “High Rise,” which envisions the future as a smoldering pile of rubble where we all live in caves, but even this evokes a gallows humor as the caves emit a video cathode ray glow and the title alludes to a hill.

Yuen has long been interested in human consciousness particularly as it comes in contact with forces physical, social, environmental, political, and metaphysical. Yuen’s paintings are compelling and evocative, rather than didactic. Their tactile surfaces reveal complexities rather than superficialities. Although containing representational imagery, they have a dreamlike quality that resists simple linear narratives. “Relying on an ever-expanding vocabulary culled from a wide range of sources, including Asian art, Persian miniatures, ornithology, cartoons, scientific diagrams, Op Art, and outsider art, Yuen assembles what I have come to think of as visual ideograms, complex possibilities whose ambiguous meanings reverberate….   Yuen’s dense, inflected ideograms are marked by a self-deprecating humor in which none of his figures ever appear to be heroic, or overtly masculine or feminine, as promoted by mainstream society.”  (John Yau, Hyperallergic)

Speaking of his process, Yuen notes, “My painting process inhales a profusion of events and exhales a reflection—inconclusive, provocative, thoughtful, wry.” Born and raised in Hawaii “and living in New York City, with an hyphenated identity (American–Chinese–Japanese), has occasioned unique assumptions on belonging. It is an unstable cultural perch promoting a questioning viewpoint.” Viewing art as a project connected to a social and civic vision, Yuen has also participated in community based activities including being an early member of Godzilla, an Asian American arts organization; contributions in support of various not-for-profit locally based organizations; and broader political and cultural advocacy exhibitions. Inherently iconoclastic, his art champions personal, human-centric values as rationality and poetics coexist.

Yuen moved from Hawaii to NYC in 1981 and currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. He received a BFA from the University of Hawaii and MFA from Rutgers University. His work has been included in numerous solo and group exhibitions including: the Brooklyn Museum of Art, (Brooklyn, NY), Newark Museum, (Newark, NJ), The Contemporary Museum, Artist Space, Exit Art, Hallwalls, Franklin Furnace, Art in General, Asian American Arts Center (all NYC), and the Downtown Gallery, Honolulu, HI. Grants awarded include a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (2018), the Adolf and Esther Gottlieb Foundation (2011), Joan Mitchell Foundation (2006). Yuen’s work has been written about in numerous publications including: Art in America, Hyperallergic, The New York Times, ArtCritical, and Two Coats of Paint.