New York


Grace Borenicht Gallery

It seems a not-so-subtle indictment of the current market-oriented mind-set of the art world how much more attention is paid to Japanese art collectors than to Japanese artists. This situation was temporarily redressed by this show, which offered a fascinating look at the lively state of Japanese contemporary art through the work of five artists. According to curators, Sabu Kohso and William Chambers, the aim was to include artists representing “different styles and generations.” The title of the show signifies what for the curators is one of the most important commonalities underlying the incredibly diverse range of expression to be found in Japanese art today: the interest in technology as it pertains to the broad spectrum of human production.

Ushio Shinohara offered wry commentary on the world of human- and machine-made, as well as imaginary and real, objects. Shinohara’s exuberant approach to color and material came through in the painting of Sunflower, 1989, his energetic appropriation-cum-homage to one of Van Gogh’s masterpieces, and in the mixed-media sculpture Centaur Motorcycle, 1989, a wild portrayal of the mythological creature astride its vehicle—the work projects both force and power. In his paintings, Tadaaki Kuwayama focused on minimalism and that movement’s emphasis on industrial process. His series “Metallic Grey,” 1989, calls attention to matters of construction, to the repetition of actions, resulting in forms laden with mystery. Takashi Sekiguchi seems grounded in the sensibility of Conceptual art. He has used the logic and methodology of scientific research as a model for his now-14-year-old photographic investigation of the form of the quail egg. Sekiguchi’s project features single full-frame shots of quail eggs detailing their various patterns. In its obsessiveness, it suggests that, no matter how close an artist gets to his subject, there is no cracking open the shell of the object—it remains separate and apart.

Hirotake Kurokawa is a sculptor who has devised a method for casting bronze that does not require the use of molds. This allows him to exploit the expressive potential implicit in the flow and ebb of liquid metal. Kurokawa’s forms have a rich organic vitality and evocative power that is too little seen in most abstract sculpture today. Golem #25, 1987–88, a freestanding piece that confidently occupied its space, captures a sense of the generative tensions of human life. Seiko Mikami, the youngest artist as well as the only woman seen here, presented a daringly original vision of one of the most challenging and, in some respects, overworked subjects in 20th-century art: the machine. In an installation piece called Super Clean Capsule, 1989, Mikami succeeded in updating the genre of machine art to the computer-driven technology/information revolution of the end of the 20th-century. Working with bits and pieces of circuit plates, CRT monitors, microchips, and telephone cables, she created symbols of the connections relating human beings to the inventions our age has become so dependent on. Her whirling, blinking objects, contained in Plexiglas cases, appeared as animated entities with lives of their own. Mikami brings a welcome passion and imaginative flair to her self-defined field of sculptural bioengineering.

Ronny Cohen