Critics’ Picks

Shinro Ohtake, Memory of Color 1/Born to Please, 2008, oil, lacquer, printed matter, photographs, rice paper, wallpaper, cotton yarn, plant matter, varnish, wood and acrylic board in custom frame, 17 x 14".


Shinro Ohtake

Take Ninagawa
2-12-4 Higashi Azabu, Minatoku 1F
October 17 - November 28

“Shell & Occupy 4” features the latest examples of Shinro Ohtake’s “stickering” method—the white noise of found objects strewn together, then contained by oil paint. The resulting effect is simultaneously gritty and sleek. The exhibition’s highlight is the wall-size multimedia assemblage Latitude of the Memory of Color/Galaxy, 2009, whose title indexes Ohtake’s two key preoccupations: color and memory.

The “Beach” cycle, created this past year, just as Ohtake was designing a public bath in Naoshima, emphasizes the memory component of his work. Here, vintage reproductions of swimsuit models are worked over with various materials. Partially obscured with the buildup of sand, plant seeds, and impasto painting, the pieces evince a wistful quality echoing the fragility of old images. In the 2008 collage series “Memory of Color,” in which Ohtake has combined lacquer, printed and plant matter, wallpaper, cotton yarn, and old photographs—topping this heavily varnished accumulation of found objects with multicolored splotches of oil paint—color is literally the starting point. The “Memory” images brilliantly articulate their spatial aspect by making the found objects appear from behind the painted-over Plexiglas base—the empirical contained by the subjective.

Ohtake has been an integral part of the Japanese art scene for some thirty years now, his densely layered images bringing into focus the impact of popular culture on contemporary art, as well as the lasting debate over the true relationship between Western and Japanese artists. Tellingly, the artist once cited among his major influences a schizophrenic outsider, Adolf Wölfli, whose metanarratives blended his personal mythology with actual and fictitious events of world history. When Ohtake arranges the layers of found objects with his drawings and paintings before varnishing and encapsulating them into custom frames that seal and bond the contents of the work, he performs a similar act of personal and cultural amalgamation, archiving his unique perception of the discarded cultural ephemera on display.