New York

Taro Suzuki

Daniel Newburg Gallery

Through the use of figure/ground illusions in his new work, Taro Suzuki questions the “truth” of human perceptions. The fantastic character of Suzuki’s earlier art, especially the organic surrealism of his lava lamps, has been largely preserved in his latest efforts, but in a tone remarkably more austere and direct. It is as if, by creating streamlined versions of his science-fiction fantasy objects, with a more precise rendering of effects and an almost laboratorylike reduction of all extraneous elements, he has been able to convince us that these new, purer models are absolutely scientific.

While we may view with some justified suspicion the sudden appearance of hard-edge geometry in the work of many emerging artists these days, geometric minimalism has been a characteristic of Suzuki’s work for some time–at least simultaneous with, and from similar conceptual roots as, the more celebrated figures of “neo-geo.” The physical and psychological aspects of perception are central to the concerns of Suzuki and his peers, who have been greatly influenced by recent advances in our understanding of cognitive perception. Although one might be tempted to attribute the jarring optical patterns and increased tension of compositional relationships in such art to some faddish cycle of design trends, it would be more accurate to locate the sources of this transformed geometry in the hot/cold split of our cultural psyche and the polarized language of our binary rationalism.

Thus the arts seem to register the extremes of our social ambivalence, the axis upon which we flip between the rational and the irrational, humanism and technocracy. The recent eruption of hard-edge conceptual minimalism, coming as it does after the widespread embrace of expressionism, can be seen as a rejection of personal subjectivity for more scientifically predictable and generalized patterns of response. Although Suzuki’s current work seems to demonstrate a similar constriction of vision—with its shift from the psychedelic (mind-expanding) to the illusionistic (mind-deceiving)—it also contains a provocative ambiguity. Pink Cube, 1987, a cube with a cubic chunk removed from one corner (in which that negative/positive space flips back and forth between foreground and background), produces an optical effect that is perceived simultaneously as scientifically cold and emotionally hot.

Suzuki echoes not only our current conservatism in the arts but also our emerging literacy of coded information. From the studies of perception by Gestalt psychologists, we know that visual comprehension of an entity is not a result of step-by-step examination of its discrete parts but of an overall reading of the multiple stimuli as a group. In focusing on optical phenomena and visual comprehension, Suzuki increases our grasp of the formalized either/or logic in our languages of perception and learning, which is embedded in the mechanics of the brain and the semiotics of computer technology. As we move toward an ever increasing reliance on the mathematical conclusions of our computers, rather than on our own minds and senses, we can expect to see more artists like Suzuki who consider anew the relationship between science and the arts.

Carlo McCormick