Curator Conversation

Artist Yun-Fei Ji will speak about his life and work in conversation with KIA Chief Curator Rehema Barber. You can experience his work at the KIA exhibition Yun-Fei Ji: Courting Disaster, But Still Hopeful (working title), Ji was born in Beijing, China, and currently lives and works in New York and he utilizes the structures and symbols of folkloric tradition to speak truth to power. Full of phantoms, demons, and other spectral characters, Ji’s paintings have frequently functioned as metaphorical critiques of oppressive power structures—and strategies of defiance. In his ink and watercolor compositions, these ghostly figures are stand-ins for the complex political undercurrents and cultural tug-of-war shaping rural communities in a rapidly developing world.

Ji is inspired by the ghost stories that he first learned growing up in the countryside during the late Chinese Cultural Revolution. He employs the stacked perspective and flattened space of classical Chinese painting to tell contemporary stories that, while geographically specific, speak to a collective human experience. The work often comments on political realities of both US and China, expressed in codes by using metaphor and allusion. There is a satirical streak, and his love of the grotesque is balanced with humor and a deep sense of irony. Each work is an act of resistance, insisting that narratives of displacement and environmental destruction are worth preserving.

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