Yi Cao is a curator, writer, and art administrator based in Chicago and Beijing. She currently serves as the Director of Curatorial Administration of Arts of Asia at the Art Institute of Chicago. From 2013 to 2019, she was the curatorial and education program manager at Carnegie Museum of Art, where she contributed to Ai Weiwei: Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads (2016). Her recent curatorial projects include The Rounds (2022) and I Sense Something Has Changed (2021) at Chicago Artists Coalition, and Liu Wei: Invisible Cities (2019) at MOCA Cleveland and Cleveland Museum of Art. Her bilingual writing and translation works have appeared in Art Asia Pacific, Museum 2050, CMA Thinker, CMOA Storyboard, and Artnet News, among others.
Yi Cao, What a Homeland Is: Six AAPI Artists from the CollectionExamining the Collection, July 13, 2021
When I started working in the museum’s Arts of Asia department a year ago, I was thrilled to care for an expansive collection that connects with my cultural heritage and the place of my birth for the first time in my career.
The Asian art collection is indeed rich and robust, spanning nearly five millennia and encompassing all of the continent’s major artistic traditions. But driven by the recent escalation of hateful aggression against Asians nationwide during the pandemic and by my own immigrant experience, I expanded my research into other departments, curious to look beyond the Arts of Asia in order to study the work, contemporary histories, and unique diasporas of other Asian American and Pacific Islander artists and to explore their lived experiences. I wanted to understand better how they have anchored their sense of belonging and dwelling in their homeland, despite enduring such travails as forced removal, incarceration, and exile, despite being targeted for their cultural, ethnic, and racial identities.
Throughout my research, I encountered many remarkable artworks—many rarely displayed due to their sensitive media—and discovered great nuance and variety in the way the artists employed art as a tool to illuminate their individual and shared cultural experiences. With that in mind, I am eager to share works by six of these artists, whose works come from the departments of Photography and Media, Prints and Drawings, and Modern and Contemporary Art.
Yi Cao, The Point: Relooking For RelevanceSeptember 1, 2021
Since the Corcoran Gallery of Art, one of first art museums in the United States, was founded in Washington, DC, over 150 years ago, art museums have become lifelong learning companions for a few, places for occasional visits for some, and fading memories of school field trips for many. Despite making efforts to stay relevant and welcoming, the undeniable truth—especially concerning to museum professionals—is that art institutions have remained an indistinct, almost foreign place for most.
As a museum professional who believes in what art can and should offer to all, I had never imagined a place where not a single art museum was open. Yet the Covid-19 crisis made this a reality, making me shudder to think: If the pandemic persists, art museums that weren’t a “necessity” for everyone might be among those institutions deemed dispensable. Alternatively, when the pandemic comes to its end, if museums haven’t demonstrated that they are for everyone, what would justify their ongoing existence through a more critical and parsimonious post-pandemic lens?
Liu Wei: Invisible CitiesCurated by Yi Cao
The Cleveland Museum of Art collaborates with the Museum of Contemporary Art (moCa) Cleveland to mount the first solo US museum exhibition by internationally renowned artist Liu Wei (Chinese, b. 1972). Works by Liu Wei will be presented concurrently at both institutions, offering an expansive view of the artist’s diverse artistic practice.
The CMA’s presentation centers on Panorama No. 2 (2015–16), a recent gift to the museum by Mr. Richard Jeschelnig and Mrs. Michelle Shan Jeschelnig. The monumental diptych exemplifies a technical shift the artist introduced into his work in 2010, when he began using computer software to generate patterns of pixels that are converted onto canvas and subsequently filled with color. The semiabstract imagery of Panorama No. 2 recalls the vast skylines of megacities like Beijing. At the same time, the oscillating pattern of gray, orange, purple, and yellow generated by the software removes the work from functioning primarily as a social or political commentary. Instead, the painting’s abstract quality is so strong that it becomes unclear whether the viewer is looking at a landscape or a purely abstract pattern. Its complex architectural imagery comes off the wall into real space through a series of large-scale representations of architectural monuments made from animal edibles, primarily oxhide.
The RoundsCurated by Yi Cao
Chicago Artists Coalition is pleased to present The Rounds, a duo exhibition featuring new works by current HATCH 2021-2022 artists-in-residence Osée Obaonrin and Nayeon Yang, curated by Yi Cao. The Rounds captures the repeated tries, recurring counter-actions, and recursive tensions existing amid the perpetual state of motion in societies, between relationships, and within one’s mental landscape.
Obaonrin develops a personal and self-reflexive form of documentation that pin-prints the origins of friendship encounters, their formations, and dissolutions—threading her way through the cycles of choices, consequences, and interconnectivity. By contrast, Yang turns her eyes to migration, labor, and global circulation. She concurrently stages hybrid spaces and parallel realities through the movements of the various hands of migrant workers and consumers in the exhibition space in Chicago and a store-front gallery in Seoul. Anchoring this exhibition is a “rock paper scissors” game-inspired, video installation the two artists made together. Through this layered reference, the collaborative piece reflects the human propensity to replicate decisions that result in reward contingencies and to shift responses away from options that formerly led to undesirable outcomes. This tendency displays a plurality of shared elements of the artists’ practices: calculative but intuitive, rigorous but playful.
The exhibition takes us on a journey that extends through screen prints, mirrors, threads, moving images, live streams, and participatory installations around the clock and across the globe, challenging the visitor to consider their own “rounds,” as well as those of others.