Art Merge Lab proudly presents Myself / Them, the first solo exhibition in the United States by South Korea-based artist Jin Young Yu. Bringing together over twenty of the artist’s doll-like sculptures, the exhibition features Yu’s highly personal character studies from two major bodies of work, including her recent series, “Me & Myself,” and her latest series “Me & Them.” Presenting works that never been exhibited together, as well as works that will be making their public debut, the exhibition takes place at Art Merge Lab’s new popup gallery in Arts District, Downtown LA. With an opening reception on September 19th from 6:00pm to 8:00pm, the exhibition will run through October 17.

Through the artist’s nearly invisible renderings of emotionally complex individuals, she dramatizes the pressures in contemporary life between how we are expected to behave versus how we really feel. With acute sensitivity, Yu explores that tension in evolving ways. From the series “Me & Myself,” inspired by her own life, she explores individuals who wish to be invisible but are trapped in a society that demands constant public sharing, to the series “Me & Them,” where she explores an individual’s inner struggle with voices from her past.

Yu achieves the invisibility of these sculpted figures through highly transparent plastic, a material that she prefers because it does not bend light the way glass and other choices would. Using a labor-intensive process done entirely by hand, Yu is able to create eerie ethereal effects for her sculptures. The transparent bodies are produced in halves divided vertically, and attached to one another by stitches, a process that reinforces the hand-made quality of the work and testify to the artist’s mastery.

The most recent body of work finds Yu moving away from transparency toward translucency, and away from the tension between an individual and society, and toward the personal internal struggle of individuals. Works from the “Me & Them” series place the artist’s poignant characters in dialog with voices from their own past. These figures appear surrounded by faces and voices that hover hauntingly around their heads.

With the exhibition, Yu assembles her sculptures into installations that incorporate smaller two-dimensional acrylic works that complement the nearly life-sized sculpture. The acrylic works were made specifically for this exhibition and have never been shown before. By bringing her figures together in a mise-en-scene, the exhibition makes full use of the raw and expansive popup gallery space.

Many Korean social critics consider Korea to be over-conformist and homogeneous. Human interactions are governed by a severe level of “formality.” This age-old social mentality has been clashing with the growing influence of Western individualism. Yu is one of the most potent commentators in Korea on this state of affairs, yet her highly personal, sympathetic character studies give her work universal resonance. Her works are emotion-packed, anxiety-ridden artifacts of contemporary struggles that many people in the world go through to meet social expectations and find their own voice. Her renderings of doll and animation-like figures and her finger-on-the-pulse subject matter truly represent Korean contemporary art.