Critics’ Picks

Simon Fujiwara, Masks (Merkel A5-6.1), 2016, makeup on canvas, 89 x 49 1/2 x 2 1/2".

Simon Fujiwara, Masks (Merkel A5-6.1), 2016, makeup on canvas, 89 x 49 1/2 x 2 1/2".


Simon Fujiwara

Gió Marconi
via Tadino 20
May 31–September 30, 2017

Simon Fujiwara’s heaven is obviously clear and orderly. A labyrinth dominates the gallery, while background music lures viewers toward a secret chamber at the heart of the installation. As one traverses the space, lights are activated in recognition of bodies in motion. Passages within are punctuated by large paintings of Angela Merkel, a project titled “Masks (Merkel)” that Fujiwara has been working on since 2015. The series features sections of the chancellor’s face that the artist paints with the makeup products that Merkel actually uses. Working from a portrait of the political figure created by her own makeup artist, enlarged a thousand times, Fujiwara renders her as abstract details in large-scale pasty works. Along the way through the maze, one reaches Heaven, 2017, where blonde hair cascades down both sides of a corridor. Though at first resembling gates to paradise, after further considering their bifurcation, the piece hints at detachment from possibilities.

When visitors arrive at the core of the labyrinth, the source of the music is revealed to be a video (Edelweis, 1991/2017) that shows the artist at the age of ten, singing the iconic song from The Sound of Music (1959) at a school concert. Emphasizing the incongruity of an ethnically Japanese man singing a ditty related to the Nazi threat, the work would seem to pose the question of whether an ironic bliss is possible. Or does it promise a dead end at the next corner?

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.