Portland

Norie Sato

Elizabeth Leach Gallery

Norie Sato creates sophisticated analytic essays on how meaning gets engineered. She treats the visual field as a fluid system, examining how it differentiates itself, organically, into the crucial factors and forces that characterize it at any given moment. Her huge drawings, mixed-media glass sculptures, and computer graphics all display sometimes autonomous, sometimes interacting forces coinciding and colliding with each other within a single ecosystem.

The most distinctively analytic (and restrained) of these are her prints from the “In the Blue Glow Suite” series, 1989. In each, Sato employs three separate printmaking techniques—intaglio, relief, and pochoir—to represent three distinct subsystems, or levels, of organization within the whole. The scratchy, feathery lines have some directional thrust but are mostly chaotic. Abutting these are blunter, more pronounced clumps of opaque gray, organized as explosions or ruptures. Trapezoidal bands of yellow, blue, or orange career through both like regulated, well-organized streams of information. Natural systems build language like distinctions into themselves, giving the viewer the impression of being able to read what is going on.

Sato’s installation piece Sifting, 1989, looks a lot like a 3-D computer model and suggests that analysis itself, like creation, is a natural, if strenuous, fluid process. Lengths o f fogged green glass, running perpendicular to the wall, funnel down toward a point on the floor. The outermost sections of glass in this pictorial vortex are straight-edged. Ripple-edged glass, however, is in the interior, where turbulence would be greatest in a funnel. This kind of instability regularly generates discrete events focused on where the maelstrom bottoms out. There, at the funnel base, a sandpile of numbered glass chips sits on the floor. Meaning does not come from a mold, Sato implies. Formally speaking, these tiny and uncomplicated packages of "meaning” on the floor bear scant resemblance to the turbid generative processes that made them.

Jae Carlsson