Critics’ Picks

Susumu Koshimizu, Paper (formerly Paper 2), 1969/2012, paper, granite, 108 x 108”.

Susumu Koshimizu, Paper (formerly Paper 2), 1969/2012, paper, granite, 108 x 108”.

Los Angeles

“Requiem for the Sun: The Art of Mono-ha”

Blum & Poe | Los Angeles
2727 S. La Cienega Boulevard
February 25–April 14, 2012

This gallery’s long-standing association with contemporary Japanese art has just been taken to a higher level with the space’s timely and ambitious historical survey curated by Mika Yoshitake. The ten artists presented here were born in the decade between the mid-1930s and mid-’40s, and came of age during Japan’s postwar reconstruction and subsequent industrial boom. Unsurprisingly, the work—which belongs to Mono-ha, or the “School of Things” movement, which scrutinized relationships between natural materials and industrial objects—references the larger discourse of cultural renewal.

The objects on view were made between the late 1960s and early ’70s, and range from large-scale outdoor sculptures to works on paper, from photographs to video. While most of the pieces were reproduced especially for the show, a handful of works—including Noriyuki Haraguchi’s Untitled (I-Beam and Wire Rope), 1970; Susumu Koshimizu’s Perpendicular Line 1, 1969; Nobuo Sekine’s 1968 “Phase” series drawings and wall sculpture; Katsuro Yoshida’s silk screens from 1971; and Jiro Takamatsu’s torn paper composition Oneness of Paper, 1971––are presented in their original incarnations. The unique combination of the work’s meticulous production and Yoshitake’s equally scrupulous as well as historically sensitive selection gives the exhibition a feeling of cohesion and flow, a quality one senses most from important museum exhibitions.

Mono-ha’s collective vision of art as a perceiving process is evident in the complex exploration of space and materials by Lee Ufan, who is noted in the gallery’s press release as “Mono-ha’s key ideologue.” In his Relatum (formerly Phenomena and Perception B), 1969/2012, a granite slab rests on a cracked glass panel; the slab at once dominates its support and is destabilized by it. In another Relatum, 1975/2012, an even more intricate arrangement of steel plate and pipe, piano wire, and stones recalls the hermetic cycle of the saisho wa guu (rock-paper-scissors) game, where physical properties dictate ontological priority. Meanwhile, in Koshimizu’s Paper (formerly Paper 2), 1969/2012, the hempen material implies physical fragility; yet it envelops a sizable granite boulder. Here, it is up to the viewer to decide whether the paper actually beats the rock.