Friday, October 3, 2014

exhibition: making home in Brooklyn

New York has long held a special allure for artist from all over the world.  But at some point in the past several years, the tectonic plates of creativity in the city shifted, and Manhattan become a suburb of Brooklyn. A current show at the Brooklyn Museum surveys the recent art from the borough made by thirty-five local artists among them two Japanese-born: Yuji Agematsu and Nobutaka Aozaki, who made Brooklyn their home.

Yuji Agematsu, who landed in the US in 1980, has spent much of his adult life collecting discarded materials on walks through New York, then archiving his finds in banker's boxes stored in his studio and, on occasion, mining his trove to create delicate, ephemeral installations. Sometimes the pickings are displayed unchanged and sometimes they are combined into new arrangements with the elegantly formalistic effect.

Nobutaka Aozaki works are likewise ephemeral. Aozaki has created a portrait station inspired by caricaturists in Times Square. Except Aozaki has replaced drawing paper with plastic smiley face bags—onto which the artist Sharpies hair, glasses, etc. The result: a bunch of photos of visitors holding up their bags vaguely in their likeness and smiling.

The exhibition runs through January 4th 2015.

Friday, May 30, 2014

into the fog

Since 1970,  Fujiko Nakaya has created numerous site-specific fog installations in cities as far-flung as Sydney, Paris, New York, Bilbao, Shanghai, Toronto, Riga and Japan. She collaborated with choreographers (Trisha Brown), musicians ( David Tudor), other artists (Bill Viola, Robert Wilson, Hiroshi Teshigawara) and architects (Diller+Scofidio, Arata Isozaki) to lend her fog to sound, music and dance.
Trisha Brown dance Company, Opal Loop/Cloud Installation #72503, 1980
Existing somewhere between 'experience-oriented' sculpture, environment and performance Fujiko Nakaya's fog works draw from radical experimentation of the 1960s. 

In 1968 Nakaya begun working with the seminal group Experiments in Art Technology (E.A.T), which was an association of artists and engineers founded by Bell Telephone Laboratories engineer Billy Kluver. Her first project with E.A.T. was Pepsi Pavilion for Osaka Expo'70, which unsightly dome she shrouded in the cloud of fog. It was then, when she started her forty-year long collaboration with Pasadena-based cloud physicist Thomas Mae who for her request invented a people-friendly water-generated fog.
Pepsi Pavilion for Osaka Expo, fog sculpture #47773, 1970

Her fog sculptures derive their specificity from a matrix of topographical and meteorological conditions. Nakaya's research into the weather conditions of a particular site is thus key to the development of her projects. Indeed each work bears the code number of the international weather station where it is, or was, sited.
Square Fog #47590,  The Miyagi Museum of Art, Sendai, 1981
Whole history of sculpture can be read into Nakaya's fogscapes. Her works can also be seen as challenging the tenets of minimalism, which had dominated artistic production and in particular sculpture, for the earlier part of the 1960s. Turning her back on the industrial materials of Minimalism - lead, steel, and copper - she courted ephemeral media to create semblances of natural phenomena. Fog, in Nakaya's hands, is a force of decomposition. In her own words, fog responds constantly to its own environment, revealing and concealing the features of the environment. Fog makes visible things become invisible and invisible - like wind - become visible.
Philip Johnson's Glass House, Veil, 2014
In 1953 Robert Rauschenberg (Nakaya's later friend and collaborator) erased a drawing that he requested from Willem de Kooning expressly for that purpose. Rauschenberg put the drawing in a gold leaf frame with a handwritten label that read: Erased de Kooning Drawing, Robert Rauschenberg 1953. Nakaya's fog environments share something in common with Rauschenberg's gesture. 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

exhibition: perspective in white

Norio Imai was only a high school freshman in Osaka when he saw on television Gutai Art Association members demonstrating their unconventional approach to art making. Ever since he frequented Gutai Pinacotheca events and exhibitions. In 1965 he join Gutai as its youngest member and moved from filmmaking onto exploring the fusion of photography, performance, and sculpture. He was only seventeen, when he participated in 14th Gutai Art Exhibition with one of his earliest white relief paintings.

Imai was interested in Lucio Fontana's Spatial Concept, which he knew thought art magazines and books. Fontana's monochromatic canvases with slits or punctured holes created an air of mastery. Imai was able to see some of his works in person at the exhibition held in Pinacotheca in 1964.
Around that time he recalls discovering in Kodama City, near Osaka dozens of discarded parts of speakers manufactured by Panasonic Corporation, which inspired him to manipulate canvas to make various relief paintings that would represent the proliferating sounds of an information Society. The odd-shaped forms that resulted from this mode of art making seemed to throb with restless energy, as if the objects hidden beneath Imai's swelling canvasses were to burst through the smooth, luminous surfaces of canvas.

The affinities of Imai's works with the international contemporaries raised some red flags and he was accused by his mentor Jiro Yoshihara, who was an author of Gutai's manifesto to do something no on else has ever done before, that his works were similar to those of Castellani. Even though Imai did not know Castellani's white relief paintings before then he decided to move onto experimenting with kinetic art instead.

At 16th Gutai Art Exhibition in 1965 he displayed two boxes, called White Event. Each box measured about one meter square and contained a motor, which pushed a round protrusion against a rubber cover evoking some lunar landscape or volcanic mountain. These two works as well as those from the formative stage and the further deviations from Castellani and Fontana's works are now on view at Galerie Richard Chelsea, NY.

(Adaptation of Midori Yoshimoto text: In Pursuit of White Abstractions: Imai Norio and the Global art of the 1960s)

Sunday, February 23, 2014

exhibition: Taro Award

Taro Okamoto was an artist leading his era, always challenging towards something new. In 1954, Okamoto published a book called Today’s Art subtitled Who will Make History
The Okamoto Taro Memorial Award for Contemporary Art, commonly referred to as the Taro Award, was established shortly after he passed away. It is one of Japan's most coveted art recognitions and the only one these days that actively encourages radical experimentation. 

This year the Taro Okamoto Award went to Kyun-Chome an art unit composed of two artists, Honma Eri and Nabuchi who's portfolio parallels that of Chim↑Pom in a number of ways (performances pieces staged and recorded in restricted areas around Fukushima, interactive gallery installations which temper with Japanese paradigms and cultural taboos and the central focus on a female character), which is of no surprise considering that Kyun-Chome were previous apprentices of Chim↑Pom's. 

For the 17th Taro Okamoto Contemporary Art Award exhibition they spread one-ton of white rice on the floor with the mound of red painted rice in the center, which combined resembled Japanese flag. To enter the space the visitors had to go under the do-not-enter tape and walk on rice to view video work showing the New Years's Eve of 2013 in abandoned Fukushima. Whilst everywhere else in Japan people went to their local temples to ring the bells and chase away all the past year evils, Fukushima remained silent until someone broke-into prohibited zone to toll the bell there as well. 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

exhibition: Kazuko Miyamoto

Miyamoto was primarily a painter of large-scale bichromatic multi-media canvases, works that inflected and, in some ways, undermined formal systems with modest, organic painterly elements that would satisfy the strictest dictates of orthodox minimalism.

In 1969, Kazuko Miyamoto was working in her live-in studio at 117 Hester Street when the fire alarm went off. Congregating on the street below with other artists from the building, she met her neighbor Sol Le Witt, and soon after become his assistant. For several decades, she executed his wall drawings and oversaw the production of his modular cube sculptures.

Today, the Japanese-American artist is best known for her signature post-Minimalist works. Her recent self-titled exhibition in Invisible Exports examined the beginnings of her work and featured a judicious selection from 1970s drawings as well as one of her signature installation pieces—a structure made simply of thread and nails that protrudes from the bare walls of the space.

Miyamoto (now the owner of Gallery Onetwentyeight, in Manhattan's Lower East Side) developed her signature nail and thread style of installation throughout the '70s. She continued building these site-specific sculptures throughout her career. And over time, she found herself gradually abandoning strict measurements. Her sculptures became increasingly organic. As Miyamoto once wrote of herself in a press release for her first solo exhibition in New York in 1973: "Kazuko create[s] linear system by extending string between nails on wall. These materials and lighting form an area of sensitivity and spaciousness. The most beautiful is to have nothing on the wall, the second most beautiful is to have line on it, and then the third is to break the wall."

Sunday, January 19, 2014

art in action: Eiko&Koma

38 Works (1976 - 2011) from Eiko and Koma on Vimeo.

Since 1972, Japanese-born dancers, Eiko&Koma have created a unique and riveting theatre of movement out of stillness, light and sound. Primal, intense, and powerfully moving, their pieces explore elemental themes such as birth, death, desire, struggle ,and profound connection between human and nature. Eiko&Koma studied with Kazuo Ohno in Japan, Manja Chmiel in Germany and Lucas Hoving in the Netherlands before moving to United states in 1976. Yet they do not consider themselves as dancers in any traditional sense. rather, they think of themselves as artists whose medium is movement and whose work resides in the space between dance, theatre, performance art, and sculpture. This is why throughout their careers they have presented their works outside conventional dance venues. Exactly a year ago I saw their installation The Caravan Project performed in a specially modified trailer in the garden lobby of MoMA. Now I'm reading their first comprehensive monograph published by Walker Art Center, which has been enjoying a long history with artists. The book is an extensive research into the ephemera of the artists’ forty-year career and include program notes, flyers, performative and editorial photography, video, reviews, and letters. Below a selection of few spreads from Eiko&Koma: Time Is Not Even, Space Is Not Empty.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

exhibition: rebirth

It’s been a full decade since Mariko Mori’s last New York museum show, and viewers who remember that exhibition might not even recognize the artist in “Rebirth: Recent Work by Mariko Mori,” at Japan Society. The futuristic fashion plate of Ms. Mori’s earlier photographs and videos — the artist herself, in Manga-inspired get-ups — seems to have vanished, and so has her contemporary Japanese landscape of malls, airports and business districts.

In their place are meditative, abstract sculptures and installations, strongly influenced by Buddhism, theoretical physics, and prehistoric cultures (and also, it often seems, by other contemporary artists like Hiroshi Sugimoto and James Turrell). They make up an ambitious but disappointing show, which summons big ideas and primal energies only to give them trite, New Agey forms. Continue reading