The young Israeli artist Guy Yanai is obsessed with borders — the way the paint touches the edge of a canvas; the liminal spaces between people and between people and places. “The show is really about edges between many things,” he says of his solo exhibition “Ancienne Rive,” which opens tomorrow at the Chelsea gallery Ameringer McEnery Yohe. Like much of his previous work, the 15 new paintings Yanai created for this show convey the everyday: sailboats, the sea, plants, a quiet lawn and a horseback rider are meticulously painted in vibrant horizontal stripes. “It’s not really clear where they are, or what space they are,” says Yanai. “They’re nowhere, and in that sense it’s really a very synthetic kind of work.”
A piece titled “End of Europe (Geographically),” which features a potted plant he saw while vacationing in Portugal, exemplifies Yanai’s interest in physical and geographical boundaries. “It’s called ‘End of Europe’ because the western edge of Portugal is really where you can say is the end of Europe. On the east, who knows where Europe ends,” he says. Centered above the plant is an image of a boat gliding on a sea of blue, with the untouched white canvas on either side. “The way those marks are over the painting at the end, it’s in a way another layer, like another Photoshop layer,” he says. “In a way it’s like I’m not hiding the way I arrive at the paintings. It’s a little paradox, because they are these images, but could be broken down to lines and marks.”
Yanai’s pieces look pixelated, in keeping with the digital age in which they were created — and the artist doesn’t shy away from mentioning computers, Photoshop and Instagram in conversation — but they are also reminiscent of objects made using centuries-old crafts, like needlepoint or weaving. His style, he says, “references a lot of ancient things but also a lot of new things. All at the same time.” Yanai recalls his collaboration with the Band of Outsiders designer Scott Sternberg on his 2014 resort collection, which featured summery dresses and pretty cotton separates adorned with reinterpretations of Yanai’s paintings. “He showed me his mood board and half of it was works of mine,” he says. “In one call we basically set up the whole method of working. We did it all through Skype and Dropbox.”
While on vacation in France, Yanai kept seeing the word “ancienne.” His French girlfriend explained that the word can be used to describe something that’s very traditional — or done in the correct way. “Rive” means the edge or boundary of something. “Ancienne is such a nice-sounding word. And it looks so nice with Rive,” he says. “Painting can be so dated sometimes.” The title of the show, he adds, “is almost like laughing at this.”
Ancienne Rive” is on view July 9-Aug. 14 at Ameringer McEnery Yohe, 525 West 22nd Street, New York, amy-nyc.com.
Image (detail): Guy Yanai, End of Europe (Geographically) II, 2015, Oil on linen, 27 1/2 x 25 inches, 70 x 64 cm, A/Y#22633