Critics’ Picks

Danh Vo, 麒麟 (Kirin), 2014, gold, 40 cardboards, dimensions variable.

Danh Vo, 麒麟 (Kirin), 2014, gold, 40 cardboards, dimensions variable.


Danh Vo

Take Ninagawa
2-12-4 Higashi Azabu, Minatoku 1F
March 1–April 26, 2014

For his first exhibition in Japan, Danh Vo’s flattened-boxes motif is given a local treatment. 麒麟 (Kirin), 2014, uses boxes with labels for Kirin beer. The way these boxes are neatly stacked and bound resembles the way in which Tokyo households leave their paper products outside on recycling day. Once holding something of value—in particular, a product associated with reward and celebration for many Japanese people—the boxes are now empty, transformed from an item of possibility into an item of waste stacked on street corners.

Waste and objects left behind seem to be unifying themes across all pieces in this sparse exhibition. Bones are referred to many times, including in the show’s title, “Wishbone.” Close to the boxes is a chicken skeleton, hanging by its bound feet. The positioning is reminiscent of a sheep’s or pig’s corpse hung by its hind feet as it is prepared for consumption at an abattoir. In another part of the gallery, a photograph of a young man’s back is displayed, with his shoulder blade (or “wing” as it is called in the work’s title, Gustav’s Wing, 2013) sticking prominently out from his slim, hunched frame. In a similar light, two works on paper, Death of a Moth, 2013, and 2.2.1861, 2009–, feature “Death of a Moth,” an essay from 1942 by Virginia Woolf, and a reproduction of a nineteenth-century letter from French missionary Théophane Vénard on the eve of his execution. The texts’ themes—a living being’s inherent desperation to hold on to meaning in life—ring true among the exhibition’s collection of things that stubbornly remain, even after the original “life” or value of the objects has long since gone.