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Aspen Art Museum


Ulala Imai

Ulala Imai in the company of Thomas Moran & Soshiro Matsubara

September 1–October 15, 2023

The third presentation of A Lover’s Discourse features a large new painting by artist Ulala Imai (b.1982, Kanagawa, Japan), which the artist chose to exhibit alongside a 1913 landscape by Hudson River School artist Thomas Moran and a contemporary ceramic wall sconce by Soshiro Matsubara.

Imai paints scenes drawn from both her familial life and popular culture. She works in her home, transforming her children’s toys, quotidian foods—such as fruit and buttered toast—and other household items into compelling subjects, repositories for the more universal human exchanges surrounding them. Her style is deeply engaged with Western traditions of figurative painting across landscape, portraiture, and still life, from Piero della Francesca’s calm visual vocabulary to Diego Velázquez’s quick touch to Paul Cézanne’s existentially charged disruption of perspective.

Imai’s new painting on display at Aspen Art Museum titled Lovers (2023) is exemplary of one of the artist’s recurring subjects, casting the Peanuts characters of Charlie Brown and Lucy van Pelt as uncanny anthropomorphized toy-friends amidst natural settings. The juxtaposition of Lovers with Moran’s exquisite landscape Grand Canyon of Arizona from Hermit Rim Road directs our attention to Imai’s ability to capture the awe-inspiring and sublime qualities of a view worthy of contemplation. The artist’s appreciation of one’s environment in all its details, be it real or fictional, is echoed in Matsubara’s delicate wall lamp in glazed ceramic, which additionally points to the emotional dimension of objects and their power to stage elusive mirrors of human life.

A Lover’s Discourse is a series of artist-led presentations introducing unexpected dialogues between artworks from different generations. Each exhibition juxtaposes recent works by an early-career artist with their choice of companion piece from a private collection in Aspen. Artist selections range from historical and contemporary pieces, and span figurative and abstract painting, sculpture, video, works on paper, and sound.

ABOUT Ulala Imai

Ulala Imai was born in 1982 in Kanagawa prefecture, Japan, where she continues to live and work. She received her undergraduate degree with a concentration in painting from Tama Art University in 2004. She was raised in a creative household where her father, Shingo Imai, painted in the Western tradition. With his encouragement, she started painting at an early age and was exposed firsthand to pre-modern and modern painters during family trips to Europe.

Imai’s recent solo exhibitions include The Scene, Karma, New York, NY (2022); Reminiscence, Union Pacific, London (2022); Melody, Parco Museum, Tokyo (2021); Hola Strangers, Lulu, Mexico City, Mexico (2021); Amazing, Nonaka-Hill, Los Angeles (2020). Selected group exhibitions include Public Private, curated by Jareh Das, Pond Society, Shanghai, China (2023); The Postmodern Child, Busan Museum of Contemporary Art, Busan, Korea (2023); Blue Wind, High Art, Arles, France (2023); La proie et l’ombre, Crèvecoeur, Paris, France (2022); Bodyland, Max Hetzler, Berlin, Germany (2022); VOCA, Ueno Royal Museum, Tokyo, Japan (2021); Still Time, Fitzpatrick Gallery, Paris, France (2021); and Natsuyasumi: In the Beginning Was Love, Nonaka-Hill, Los Angeles, CA, USA (2021). Ulala Imai’s artworks are included in the permanent collections of San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA; Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX; the High Museum, Atlanta, GA, USA; He Art Museum, Guangdong Province, China; and Space K/ Kolon Museum, Seoul, Korea.

Exhibition Guide

A Lover’s Discourse: Ulala Imai