Tomokazu "Matzu" Matsuyama's exhibition at the Reischauer Institute at Harvard University is titled "Palimpsest." Referring to a piece of papyrus on which the original writing has been erased to create space for new writing, the word references the visible traces of the past. Newer elements trace older elements, shifting ever so slightly in reaction to current conditions.
On the occasion of the publication of Matzu's monograph, A Thousand Regards, I had the opportunity to write about Matzu's artistic practice, deconstructing his goals to act as a cultural filter to his intended audiences. The essay can be read here.
Matzu's works were exhibited in various parts of the building, and while the space is clearly not a museum, its white walls and spacious interior, together with the light streaming in from the enclosed courtyard, made for a serene and appropriate environment for Matzu's art. Now familiar Matzu motifs, including kirin, abstract all-over birds, and samurai on horseback, shared wall space with slightly older work from 2008 and 2009, as well as a highly graphic and stylized interpretation of the Japanese pre-modern theme of a dragon in the clouds (Permanent Traveler, seen in the above installation view on the far wall), reminiscent of Soga Shohaku's Dragon and Clouds.
A small work of acrylic and mixed media on canvas, entitled Sex Buddies (2013), caught my eye. Matzu informed me that he took shunga (erotic prints) as his inspiration; particularly X-rated portions of shunga pieces were often covered over, only to draw more attention to those very areas. In Matzu's work, orange squares floated atop the white spectral outlines of figures playfully engaging with each other.
Recently looking at Paola Pivi's oeuvre, I was reminded of her 2012 Public Art Fund commission, How I Roll (2012). A Piper Seneca six-seater plane installed as a kinetic sculpture in Central Park, New York, the plane slowly but continuously rotated 360 degrees upon itself, using its wing tips as the axis of rotation. Pivi inserted a familiar object in an unexpected environment, allowing visitors to experience a unique distortion of scale and place.
Airplanes (and other physical elements of modern material culture) also serve as inspiration and physical source material for Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro, a dynamic duo with a varied artistic (but consistently conceptually brainy) practice.
Take, for example, their installation, Stasis (2012), commissioned by the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, on the occasion of their namesake exhibition. Featuring a Beechcraft travelair airplane suspended in a scaffolding cube, the airplane is frozen in time and space. Despite the physically prominent apparatus that keeps the airplane levitated, its nose looks ready to dive into the museum's facade at any moment.
Admittedly, the night started rather timidly. Inaugurating Galerie Perrotin's New York space was an exhibition by Italian artist, Paola Pivi. Working in a variety of forms, Pivi's work is visually stimulating, yet also conceptually provocative. Eight polar bear sculptures in adorable poses, adorned in brightly colored feathers (that remind me of the natty material that Sesame Street muppets are made of), fill the ground floor of the gallery.
On the lower level, Money machine (true blue, baby I love you) (2013) is on display, harking back to the building's past life as a bank. Meant to be interactive, the box emits money at certain moments--coins being violently pinged onto the ground, and bills fluttering out. No instructions as to how to engage with the work exist, except for the wall text that reads: "Caution: Money is spit out every minute. The money can be taken away or left to pile up. This artwork should be a public artwork. The gallery cannot be held responsible for any gains or injuries caused by the machine." I saw a handful of cautiously lingering visitors, walking around the structure, and staring at the coins on the ground.
HOSOE Eikoh (b. 1933) is considered to be an avant-garde pioneer of contemporary post-WWII Japanese photography. In his black and white photography of bodies, he has explored the possibility of his subjects’ unique physicalities as topographies that reflect interior emotions. Miyako Yoshinaga Gallery is currently showing vintage prints from two photographic series, Man and Woman (1959-1960) and Embrace (1969-1970).
I have been interested in Hosoe and his ability to establish strong connections between himself and his subjects. In Barakei, for example, Hosoe photographed writer, Mishima Yukio, in 1963. Superimposing Mishima’s image upon Western paintings, this series of works resulted in a stunning visual presentation of portraiture and photographic performance. To read more, please click here.
One of the absolute main highlights of my Detroit trip was meeting and visiting with artists who have transplanted to the city. Taking advantage of declining property values, some artists from other cosmopolitan areas (including Brooklyn and Oakland) have moved to Detroit, purchased property (without mortgages), and transformed their homes into live/work spaces and site-specific installations. In doing so, these artists have managed to turn rows of homes that had been used as informal brothels and crack houses into a neighborhood, complete with an ingrained community watch system.Indeed
The architects and urban revitalization specialists behind Design 99 have managed to orchestrate one such community. Their non-profit, Powerhouse Productions, teamed up with Juxtapoz magazine in 2009 to purchase several houses in the neighborhood which were then given over to artists, Swoon, Retna, Monica Canilao, Richard Colman, Saelee Oh, and Ben Wolf, to renovate and recreate. Each house has been given a descriptive name, and now either provides living space for artists and visitors or exists as a site-specific installation.