Yun-Fei Ji (b. 1963, Beijing, China) earned his B.F.A. from the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing and his M.F.A. from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville in Fayetteville, Arkansas. In 2005, Ji was Artist-in-residence at Yale University where he conducted extensive research with the institution’s scholars. Ji’s work has been presented in solo museum exhibitions at the Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis; Rose Museum at Brandeis University, Waltham; Peeler Art Center, DePauw University, Greencastle; and the Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. In 2012, Ji’s work was the subject of a solo presentation at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing, China. His work has also been included in the 2012 Biennale of Sydney, the 2011 Lyon Biennale, and the 2002 Whitney Biennial. In 2008, his work was featured in Displacement: the Three Gorges Dam and Contemporary Chinese Art, an exhibition of four Chinese artists, which originated at the Smart Museum of Art, Chicago, Illinois and toured nationally. His work has been featured in publications including The New York Times, the Washington Post, the New Yorker, Modern Painters, and Artforum, and in major public collections such as the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn. Ji currently lives and works between New York, NY and Beijing, China. Yun-Fei Ji is represented by James Cohan Gallery.
Using the ancient art form of ink and mineral pigment on silk and paper, Yun-Fei Ji (b. 1963) addresses social issues using an old revered oriental form of political commentary, the scroll. In 2002 Ji made his first reference to the theme of mass displacement and environmental destruction in his well-known Three Gorges Dam Migration series of woodblock-printed hand scrolls, that depict the flooding and social upheaval caused by the construction of the Three Gorges Dam, on the Yangtze River in the central part of China. The work is the beginning of Ji's ongoing study of the human and environmental loss associated with one of the largest civil-engineering feats of recent times, the Three Gorges Dam, which is the world's largest hydropower plant. Meanwhile its immense reservoir has displaced at least 1,200,000 people and has submerged thousands of villages, aesthetically resonant landscapes, and valuable archaeological sites. Over the past decade, the theme has reappeared in Ji’s work, not only related to the construction of large public works throughout the countryside and in general the rapid urban development in China, that forces millions of people to relocate, often against their will, but also the devastation and suffering from natural disasters. In the artist’s latest series of ink-and-watercolor paintings, residents of the village of Wen are forced by “a sudden wind” to move from their homes into the wilderness. “The Last Days of Village Wen” (2011) begins with a chapter written in clear, clerical calligraphy. It tells of the flooding of Wen: ‘There was no rain for eight months,’ the scroll begins, before describing the need for villagers to become itinerant workers. Then, in a way not only creative, but deeply emotive, it narrates a sudden flood that kills enough fish to feed Wen for years. In Ji's work past and present are continuous; the theme of dispossession appears in historical scroll paintings, and Ji's images feature both naturalistic and symbolic images of the "floating weeds"—his term for the displaced, adapted from an ancient Chinese phrase. We also often see phantasmagoric depictions of inauspicious beasts, people dancing "loyalty dances" (Cultural Revolution–era replacements for traditional folk dances) expressing allegiance to the government, officials toppling into high waters.
For Prospect.3, Ji has produced a new scroll with the theme of water, a theme that he addressed already in Water Rising, the work the artist produced as a response to Hurricane Katrina. The scroll will wind around the walls of the oval Emerge Gallery.