A curious aspect of feeling out of place is that it’s universal. Everyone, at some point, has felt peculiar, abnormal, different from the rest. So Youn Lee’s latest solo exhibition at Hashimoto Contemporary, Anomaly, explores the journey of feeling different and finding belonging within circumstances that are themselves strange. Contrasting her pastel-colored palette with a textured application, the LA- based artist creates a world of anomalous creatures discovering themselves and their extraordinary surroundings, imagining a world where those deemed peculiar or offbeat naturally find a home.

So Youn Lee has spent years building this dreamy, spacey world through painting. The wide-eyed amorphous explorer Mango and their companion Choco, who was inspired by the artist’s French Bulldog, are alien voyagers traversing an unknown universe. After Choco’s real-life passing in 2022, Lee learned to live with grief, integrating it into her paintings through color and narrative. Deep blue green and indigo mix with blush pink and tangerine red to depict a perpetual dawn- like state, mirroring the explorers’ rekindled relationship after Choco passed through limbo. Mango’s hair and body melt into the bubblegum pink horizon or seafoam green sky, becoming a chameleon to navigate new surroundings and challenges.

As the third and final iteration of Lee’s contemplative “space opera with coming-of-age elements,” Anomaly features an oddball cast of characters that expand Mango and Choco’s universe. In Cloud Iridescence 02, Choco caresses a sleepy banana while riding on the cumulonimbus limb of a transformed Mango, with other beings like sea stars or sea cucumbers witnessing their journey. As nebulous as ever, Mango takes on various physical forms as self-conscious fruits: a little watermelon creature sprouting pink coiled hairs looks timidly to the side, locating how to find comfort in its green-striped skin; a fuzzy kiwi critter purses its lips and glances at something beyond the painting’s frame, their grocery store sticker grounding Mango in their identity. Together, Lee’s eclectic paintings and sculptures tell a story of friendship in new beginnings— among good company, an anomaly becomes normal.

Anomaly opens with a reception on Saturday, June 15th at Hashimoto Contemporary in Los Angeles, and will be on view through July 6th.