Critics’ Picks

  • Makiko Masutani, dreamt in the greenhouse, 2019, acrylic on cotton, 39 1/2 x 31 1/2”.

    Takuya Ikezaki and Makiko Masutani

    Satoko Oe Contemporary
    1F, 3-18-8 Shirakawa, Koto
    May 18–June 22

    That a sense of displacement is a fundamental condition of being an artist is a cliché, but one that artists Takuya Ikezaki and Makiko Masutani customize and update in this two-person exhibition. Ikezaki, who grew up in Tokunoshima, a subtropical island south of Japan, moved to New York last year and found its winter difficult to endure. The situation was exacerbated by the fact that, being a transplant, he did not know many people yet and much of his contact with the outside world came from promotional materials (“WELCOME TO WHITNEY MEMBERSHIP”) and parcels ordered online. For his works on display, titled “The Address on The Address,” 2018–19, Ikezaki drew and painted tropical motifs such as oceans and palm trees on his mail’s packaging. While the resulting pieces are lighthearted and charming, there is something wryly subversive about superimposing such overtly picturesque imagery on shipping supplies, suffused as they are with the aesthetics of administration.

    The largest piece in the show is Masutani’s SHINJUKU-KARAKUSA, 2019, an unstretched canvas covering almost an entire gallery wall and stamped with patterns of dark potted plants. The aesthetic of this painting, and that of the smaller dreamt in the greenhouse, 2019, invokes postwar fabrics and wallpapers, especially those of the Austrian Swedish designer Josef Frank. Masutani’s surfaces, though, are dominated by black and lack Frank’s cheer. In an inversion of modernist optimism, they appear instead shadowy, as though the artist is bemoaning an art-historical moment she has missed. Though Masutani is not as geographically dislodged as Ikezaki, she seems to trace the melancholic effects of mental and historical misplacement. Certain forms of loss, the juxtaposition of these two artists’ works suggests, cannot be reduced to the simple dichotomy of home and foreign land.