Critics’ Picks

E’wao Kagoshima, Untitled, 1976, oil on paper, 9 x 9".

New York

E’wao Kagoshima

71 Morton Street
January 19 - March 5

The bizarre bodies in E’wao Kagoshima’s pieces enact a narrow rubric of verbs: slithering, sliding, galumphing––but no sliming. For all their fluidity, the works on view, which span four decades and include figurative paintings as well as abstract collages, all feel stretched tight by an aridity that recalls Robert Smithson’s dry climate of sight, and evokes the same psychological remove. This dryness manifests materially: in the crumbling dust of gestural pastel works on paper that recall Stuart Davis’s jazz-influenced rhythms, and in the chalkiness of the white patina that glows on the surface of the large oil works, many of which consist of otherworldly corpora performing actions as vaguely defined as the characters of a dimly recalled dream.

Kagoshima’s wildly imaginative, sci-fi beings are often rendered with an almost disturbingly agile hand that flits across a great variety of art-historical styles—the brash confidence of 1980s Pop, the delicate strokes of the artist’s own historical Japanese brush tradition. While Kagoshima’s visual fluency might be mistaken for glibness, don’t be fooled. Anyone who has experienced extreme alienation in trodden surroundings will recognize the relief in seeing the highly familiar mixed with its total opposite, as best depicted in a series of painted pages from 1970s- and ’80s-era House Beautiful magazines depicting model interiors populated by amorphous bodies. In one, a death mask totem figure capped by a red spotted bowler hat careens near a four-piece dinette, falling in midair obliquely as if he had caught his leg and slipped on the plush carpeting. All of these exquisitely beautiful and estranged figures seem to be, in some way or another, self-portraits.