Artist to Watch This Year: Yee Wong

2020 has been a hard year for the arts, but they continue in these strange times. Amid the chaos, we are still finding voices producing compelling work. Yee Wong is such an artist. Her work is gaining traction around the world — appearing everywhere from Saatchi Gallery to the Art Voices Magazine cover.

Yee Wong is an Asian-American artist working out of New York and Hong Kong. Her work is bright and alive, a mixture of glamor and playfulness, natural forms and her imaginary world. Working in 2D and 3D forms, Yee has honed an approach of pop sensibility and elan applied to compelling concepts.

She is definitely an artist to watch this year, but her work has been delighting and challenging audiences for years. Already in 2010, her series PopFaces could be seen in Saatchi Gallery. The pieces were created by crafting sculptural objects out of the printed faces of celebrities. Ten years later, her work is still gaining momentum and attention.

The Je Ne Sais Quoi of Neon

Yee’s style is definitively optimistic. Throughout her works, there is an inexhaustible wellspring of joy at the center that shows her passion and love for art. As she has said herself, “One thing I really want to do with my art… is send a positive message to viewers.” In this she has found tremendous success.

Her Disco in the Jungle series depicts neon signs shining among the foliage in a rainforest at night. The signs don’t promote a club or a brand but positive statements like, “Life is beautiful.” The exotic mystery of the pieces draws you into their world, a vaporwave-influenced fantasy created out of rich textures and bright color.  The attention grabbing palette and compelling setting all come together with the feel-good message, the kind of thing image sharing platforms like Instagram were made for.

That appeal to popular platforms makes Yee’s work relevant and relatable. She is an artist to watch not only because her work is surprising and captivating, but also because it is made for our time. Yee’s work represents the current moment and the contemporary pop culture landscape, just as artists like Picasso and Warhol before her represented their own times.

When this style is turned to the poignant issues of our day, the full power of Yee’s approach can be seen. Her series Peace! George! repeatedly uses the peace sign symbol, in a vibrant rainbow gradient, with messages of peace and remembrance for Goerge Floyd, tragically murdered by Minneapolis police in late May. These pieces showed the bravery of hope in difficult times.

While the aesthetic could be simplistic and saccharine, Yee continually pushes it to mean more, bringing the joy that the colors and presentation evoke to a myriad of subject matter.

So far, 2020 has been a major success for Yee. With her history and growing influence in the art world, she is certainly an artist to watch, with a style perfectly matched for the visual culture of today.

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