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Mie Yim: Psychotropic Dance

Within the walls of Olympia, New York, Mie Yim’s first solo exhibition with the gallery, Psychotropic Dance, is an abstract world of horrifyingly adorable creatures. I entered the space through a short narrow stairwell and was greeted by a bear-like figure painted directly on the wall. The figure seemed to be stepping out of a black abyss into the space, its torso opened up to reveal an eerie winding road as if giving the viewer an option to navigate along the path.

Moving into the gallery, Yim’s creatures plaster the walls but each solitarily contained. Two large scale paintings occupy the back wall, both featuring characters with menacing eyes which are aware of the viewer. There are prominent elements of figuration in these works but the lingering abstract elements become a focal point which embodies a psychotropic sensation. The vibrant colors and patterns combined with layers of paint at different opacities swirl, fade and blend, causing a disorienting visual oscillation. In SPQR square forms boldly decorate the figure on the left, slowly dissolving as they migrate through the piece, emerging on the right in a tentacle-like manner. In Mudang giant ears flop down creating a reverberation of ripples in the predominantly blue field revealing a hidden world beneath.

There are two adjacent walls housing smaller pastel works  which each measure 11.5 x 9 inches. On the left wall the works  have been framed and are installed in a linear placement and on the right wall the works are installed in a salon style. These different styles of installation have an impact on the experience of the works. Those on the left are engaged yet independent of one another, allowing for an intimate moment of immersion. However, there is power in how the works respond to one another when there is no barrier between them, and their borders are closer. The figures seem to interact and develop their own personalities making it easy to get lost in their world and imagine the sounds and movements of each.

#96 is a work of a figure composed of several bulbous lavender elements, is the epitome of cute. Whereas #63 is more terrifying with six eyes stacked in two elongated sections each with appendages jutting out as if a spider/crow/rabbit hybrid. Yim manipulates pastels portraying different textures and viscosities so adeptly.

The works in this show were made in 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 quarantine adding a sense of gravity to the fluctuation between figuration and abstraction. The line these works walk mimic our collective mental state and our struggle to adapt to this new way of living.


At times, in Yim's work, the exterior form is so prominent and defined but in others the interior seems to start to peak through. This merging of the internal and external in these woks bring to mind a continuous pressure to function and remain productive when overwhelmed. In some instances, chaos explodes entirely onto the paper in the form of bright colors and hectic lines, evoking the frustration and fear felt during this time.

Nicole Castaldo, January 21, 2021


‘Psychotropic Dance’ by Mie Yim is on view at Olympia until February 6, 2021.


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