Yeni Mao (b. 1971 CAN) is a Chinese-American sculptor based in Mexico City. He received a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and subsequently trained in foundry work in California, and the architectural industries of New York. Yeni Mao’s work has been featured in numerous international exhibitions. Most recently, Mao presented the solo exhibitions “Yerba Mala” at Campeche in Mexico City, ”I desire the strength of nine tigers” at Fierman Gallery in New York, and a public sculpture with Brooke Benington in Canary Wharf, London. Among the many group exhibitions he has participated in are “Otrxs Mundxs“ at Museo Tamayo in Mexico City, “The Disorganized Body” at Zeller van Almsick in Vienna and “The Hearing Trumpet” at Galerie Marguo in Paris; and The IX Bienal De Artes Visuales Nicaraguenses in Nicaragua. Mao is a recipient of the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant 2021. Mao’s work has been written about in Art in America, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate, and The Village Voice.
The sculptural practice of Yeni Mao engages in issues of fragmentation through a series of assemblages and architectonic arrangements. In a manner of material fetishization, the works imply abstracted, unraveled bodies; cyborg constructions of found, fabricated, or sculpted components. Predominately using steel, ceramic, and leather as raw materials, Mao constructs the works himself, citing the act of making and the transformation of materials as a vehicle to both content and form. Mao evokes and examines a sense of otherness, with the concurrent sensations of restraint, domination and order. His works are coded with references to subcultures, countercultures and outsiders; enforced or self imposed on account of their social, racial, sexual, or transnational status. Mao sees deviance as the basis for his multivalent practice. Often layering these larger concerns over his own personal histories and social positioning, most recently the projects are based in family mythologies.
Playing with the condition of suggestion, Mao places importance on the negative space, the absences, through a circumstantial framework. Equating the anatomy of the body and building systems, he suggests the fabrication and dismantlement of our surroundings is also a reconsideration of ourselves. Mao frequently places allusions to mythological animals in these suggestive environments, “…posit[ing] the possibility that knowledge can be found, or made, in the ungoverned experiencing of our bodies, inside and out.” *
*Gaby Cepeda, Art in America, April 2022