Ernst Caramelle; Yuji Takeoka

Japan Foundation

Present-day art runs enormous risks that are difficult to gauge when it leaves its predestined, indifferent “white cell” and is presented in spaces whose meaning is already historically determined. A broad sampling of such situations was offered by two recent group exhibitions—“Chambre d’Amis,” Gent, 1986, and “Skulptur Projekte in Münster 1987”—and explored again somewhat differently in this two-person show. Ernst Caramelle and Yuji Takeoka chose a location that is public but not usually available for exhibitions. By taking over both floors of the Japan Foundation and showing a variety of works in different areas of the building, they created a dialogue that reached across space and directly reflected the meaning of the environment occupied by those works.

Takeoka’s Lectern, 1987, a closed, rectangular boxlike object of pale yellow wood with a slightly tilted upper surface, was placed upon the stage of the auditorium here, just like a traditional speaker’s desk. Behind it was Caramelle’s Kartenhaus (House of cards, 1987), which was displayed on a tiny table placed at the gap in the curtains draped there to conceal a movie screen. Takeoka’s lectern is an autonomous sculpture that stands in front of the stagelights, facing the auditorium, as if it were the site of an imaginary speech made by an imaginary speaker. Caramelle’s Kartenhaus alludes to the risk involved in any staging, its ironic tone striking at the very purpose of this space as well as at the artistic situation of the piece in relation to it.

Caramelle, in many of his works shown here, transformed the repertoire of his forms and signs into a commentary on the exhibition space as a whole. His Lichtarbeiten (Light works), which consist of partially sun-bleached colored paper, have the overall title “Sonne auf Papier” (Sun on paper, 1985–87)—a bizarre reference to the rising sun on the Japanese flag. In two of his "wall masks”—pieces in which Caramelle positioned three geometric forms in the same relation as two eyes and a mouth—a wall and a window were transformed into enormous masks that reflected the Western cliché of the inscrutable Oriental smile.

In another piece, Tatami, 1987, Takeoka dealt with the given environment by taking a square element of typical Japanese flooring and isolating it as a flat pedestal sculpture. His earlier works, going back to 1984, deal with the pedestal either conceptually or sculpturally. The idea of the pedestal is conveyed in all of these works through the subtle visualization of volume and mass in a space. But Takeoka also takes the idea further here, using a variety of materials—bronze, wood, clay, plastic, brass—to explore the character of the traditional pedestal, as in the 6-foot-high Denkmalsockel (Base of a monument, 1987), made of Duropal in an imitation granite pattern.

Takeoka’s latest work, done in situ, appears programmatic. His Shop Window Sculpture—Hommage à Michael Asher, 1987, consists of a display case containing a book about Richard Serra, a book about 19th-century French sculpture, and an invitation to the opening of Lawrence Weiner’s Five Sculptures exhibition. The three objects are sharply distinguished both by their plastic qualities (materials, texture, weight, etc.) and by their different kinds of designs, thus indicating three possible modes of sculpture, which are related to one another by the fourth possibility, the window. This consideration of the idea of exhibition arrangement points to one of the intellectual traditions that underlie Takeoka’s interest in the pedestal.

It was the fortunate idea of curator Stephen von Wiese to bring Takeoka and Caramelle together, because the work of both of these artists, each in his own way, begins with the cultural determination of artistic processes.

Martin Hentschel

Translated from the German by Joachim Neugroschel.