Yuriko Yamaguchi, Coexist, 2021. Hand-cast resin, stainless wire, and LED light, 31 x 77 x 11 in. Photo: Courtesy Addison/Ripley Fine Art

Yuriko Yamaguchi

Washington, DC

Addison/Ripley Fine Art

Coexist (2021), the glowing, wall-hung title work that anchored Yuriko Yamaguchi’s recent exhibition, displays her signature elements—translucent pieces of hand-cast resin, vivid complementary colors, and networks of gleaming wire. Its triangular silhouette, which Yamaguchi describes as “a bulging boat-like shape,” can be read as a sea creature (perhaps a stingray) or a wing aircraft (stealth jet). As always, Yamaguchi’s sculptures, like elegant Rorschach inkblots, tease with allusion even as they morph to dazzling abstraction.

A dark, vine-like “string” runs across and through the surface of Coexist in a surprising penetration of the ethereal cloud form. Yamaguchi often undercuts pure beauty by referencing or incorporating rough materials out of nature. That means yoking transparent papers with seed pods and driftwood, corals, stones, or roots, plus found sticks and branches that, in some works, function as armature. With titles such as Womb and Wow, these works lined up almost like botanical specimens in a wall-spanning grid, a configuration that Yamaguchi has employed for decades.

Earlier installations, especially corporate commissions, allowed for immersive environments of luminous color and tactility. Recent museum spaces invited sculptures both pendant and grand-scale, as well as projects kinetic and acoustic (featuring heartbeats and mating frog calls). But the gallery called for more intimate works like Go with Flow (2021), which evokes a mesmerizing school of fish, and Umbilical Cord (2020), which transforms the vaguely anatomical into a stem and flower, its nylon petals salvaged from a torn stocking. Only one large-scale work featured—Energy #2 (2014), a 100-inch-diameter tondo of fiery red and black. Although created pre-pandemic, the form startles with its likeness to the SARS-CoV virus.

Almost every work employed industrial materials—resins that emerge malleable from silicone rubber molds, stainless steel and copper filaments coiled within. Dramatic shadows cast by spotlights washed the walls, yet some works radiated with the embedded illumination of LED bulbs. Coexist and 11 other pieces, tethered to plugs by visible cords, assert an engagement and ease with technology.

Yamaguchi embraces the electronic while acknowledging its negative impacts. She finds in the internet’s global reach a moral imperative to build a better society with collective power. On a personal level, she adapts its useful figurative vocabulary. Her “clouds,” she says, refer to the digital storage of memory as well as the sky’s empty fantasies. She relates words like “web” and “cell” to both the biological and cyber worlds but adjusts their patterns and rhythms with her own sleight of hand.

After decades of evolution and experimentation, Yamaguchi has located an essential aesthetic in paradox, what she calls “the organic within the inorganic.” Titles such as End is Beginning signal her plea for finding harmony in seeming opposites, for seeing her integrative art-making as a metaphor for bringing peace out of the world’s chaos. In these works, Yamaguchi continues to reckon with the beauty and terror that she finds in the interconnectedness of all things.