Anicka Yi

Photograph by Kristine Larsen.

This past spring, when the artist Anicka Yi, 44, was preparing for her solo exhibition “You Can Call Me F,” at the Kitchen gallery, in New York, she went to the Upper East Side branch of Gagosian Gallery, a place she calls “the apotheosis of the patriarchal network in the art world.” Her mission: to capture the scent of that blue-chip patriarchy with an air-sampling device. At her show, the Gagosian smell—which one critic described as “a little sterile but also slightly dread-inducing”—was pumped into the gallery and juxtaposed with the collective scent of 100 women who had been asked to swab any part of their body. The samples were then synthesized into a single living bacteria by a microbiologist at MIT, where Yi was a visiting artist. Over the years, Yi, who resides in Queens, has translated her interests—feminism, body politics, and sensory experience—into a witty, novel practice that has made her a critical darling. “It’s my hope that the work is never static,” she says, “that the ‘smeller’ activates the work through her own associations and memories.”

Anicka Yi's sculptural installation Grabbing at Newer Vegetables, 2015. Courtesy of Jason Mandella.