Critics’ Picks

Kentaro Ikegami, XXXII
, 2018, polyurethane fabric, aluminum pigment paint, Plexiglas, 48 x 38".

Kentaro Ikegami, XXXII
, 2018, polyurethane fabric, aluminum pigment paint, Plexiglas, 48 x 38".

Miami

Kentaro Ikegami

Bit.Rx Gallery
1421 NW 3erd Avenue
December 2, 2018–March 4, 2019

Light is a near-physical thing—a phenomenon, to be sure, but one that can bend in nuclear explosions, camera flashes, and caustic overhead lights. In Kentaro Ikegami’s “WAVES,” there’s little of it; white umbrellas cover the brightest bulbs. The show’s title refers to physician Shuntaro Hida’s account of the United States’ nuclear bombing of Hiroshima—a “black tidal wave” not of water but of heat, then darkness and dread. Here, sound waves are altered too: Foam-insulated walls render the room a soft, reverent chamber, like a church, where silence feels dense.

Ikegami’s “Flash Paintings,” 2016–, are made of aluminum pigment paint on Plexiglas, with fabric—mesh, Lycra, or polyurethane—stretched like skin across them. In the dim light of the gallery, the materials seem to undulate; a camera flash illuminates a dripping, cross-hatched motif painted on the Plexiglas. Ikegami drew the pattern from a photograph taken after the bombing of Hiroshima, in which the design of a woman’s kimono is burned into her skin. In Regarding the Pain of Others (2003), Susan Sontag wrote that the power of such images “does not abate . . . because one cannot look at them often.” The nuclear explosion was its own kind of photographic event, where shadows were seared in the ground; the image is repeated here, a bad dream abstracted.

In Harnessing the Basic Power of the Universe, 2017, an LCD monitors—its screen turned away from the viewer—projects looped footage of explosions (sourced from Independence Day [1996], Terminator 2: Judgment Day [1991], and the television series Dragon Ball Z [1989–2003]) onto four plates of beam-splitter glass. Two red magnetic dice, stuck to the metal shelving unit on which the monitor hangs, evoke control panels, the apparatus from which bombs are sent hurling. Miasmic, spitfire explosions are pop culture’s most regular fantasy, death its most habitual trope. But there’s no didacticism here—only the feeling of light itself, and the tenebrous shadow of its sudden absence.