Ulala Imai
The Scene
July 28–September 17, 2022

188 & 172 East 2nd Street
New York

In the course of our daily lives, we sometimes encounter striking scenes that grab our hearts. The western sun hitting an abandoned toy,

the clear night sky seen through trees as they pass by,

the garden swaying in the wind outside the window.

It is by no means a special place,

but when a balance is brought together by a variety of coincidences, it becomes very dramatic. It is like a carefully composed scene from a movie.

The moment passes, never to return.

I want to depict such a scene.

The repetition of the four seasons show people nearly identical scenes and allows them to feel nostalgic for the days that have passed.

I often paint motifs that evoke feelings of nostalgia.

They show us their unchanged appearance through the centuries.

I feel as though by giving them the role of an actor and having them appear in a scene, the viewer feels as if he or she is witnessing a memorable scene in the painting. – Ulala Imai

Karma is pleased to present The Scene, a solo exhibition of paintings by Ulala Imai. The show will be on display at 188 East 2nd Street and 172 East 2nd Street, from July 28th to September 17th, 2022. This is Imai’s first solo show with the gallery. 

In The Scene, small moments are depicted with a vibrant intensity: a doll is nestled in a bed of flowers; an overripe banana and a golden teddy bear appear to have an ebullient glow; a Star Wars figure stands guard on a windswept path; moonlight lingers on the branches of trees; a deer stands still before the woods. Her subtle painting style consists of quick, decisive gestures, rendering a delicate reality. Imai memorializes her subjects inside this reality, and makes use of monumental scale to further absorb the viewer into their world. 

The influences of Diego Velázquez and Édouard Manet inform Imai’s proclivity for grand gestures and preservation of light. At times, she works through specific references, such as Ophelia (Lucy), 2022, in which Imai stands in the long tradition of paintings portraying the tragic death of the heroine in Shakespeare’s Hamlet onto Lucy from the Peanuts. This discreet movement is contrasted by works such as Lovers, 2022, where Lucy and Charlie Brown, perched in a tree branch, embody the generalized form of a romantic partnership. Throughout, Imai mines her subjects for their emotionality in order to capture tender moments.

Gently, Imai guides the viewer into this fleeting transition—to the moment that the ordinary becomes extraordinary. In doing so she offers a much needed reminder—that occurrences of deep importance in life show up unannounced, often to be found in the most unassuming details.