Critics’ Picks

View of “Izumi Kato,” 2014.

View of “Izumi Kato,” 2014.


Izumi Kato

Perrotin | Paris, Saint Claude
10 impasse Saint Claude
June 12–July 26, 2014

Having exhibited widely in his native Japan since the early 2000s, Izumi Kato makes his Paris debut with a large selection of recent paintings, drawings, and sculptures that describe a parallel universe populated by humanoid figures with masklike faces and flippers as limbs that tend to sprout exotic plants, stylized wings, or additional heads instead of hands and feet.

Influenced by art from ancient Egypt and Japan’s Jōmon period, Kato’s wide-eyed childish figures also relate to Japanese Pop art, appearing like naively drawn manga characters. Kato’s paintings, which he makes using his fingers (wearing vinyl gloves) or a spatula, typically feature full-length nude bodies or close-up faces set against stark backgrounds. When elements of landscape or hints of a mise-en-scène do appear, they are often ominous—seemingly intent on enveloping their inhabitants. In an untitled work from 2012, a green-and-yellow-faced female stands against a brown background, a layer of which she appears to hold up like a heavy curtain despite her impossibly spindly arms, as sharp stalactites descend around her. Other paintings alternately feature mountains with disembodied heads as peaks, or figures immersed in perilously high waters.

A highlight of the show is the inclusion of several sculptures made out of soft vinyl, a material Kato has used only since 2010. Compared with the artist’s work in wood (examples of which are also on view), the pieces in smooth, supple vinyl have a fleshy quality that links these works to both children’s toys and erotic fetish objects. Presented on five separate pedestals, a series of soft vinyl heads (all untitled, 2013) reminiscent of Mexican wrestler masks seem to bid welcome—via their roles as avatars—into Kato’s strange alternate reality.