Jacob Hashimoto

Jacob Hashimoto, a thirty-three-year-old American artist of Japanese origin, displayed just one side of his apparently heterogeneous imagination here. He exhibited a series of wall pieces that look extremely light, and so they are: Built using kite technology, with hexagonal or elliptical modules arranged on various parallel planes, resulting in a sort of multiple or superimposed surface, they hang suspended from slender strings. Each module can be painted or left white, and each seems a monad unto itself, something already complete in its shape and signification. Yet the ensemble generates a sense of complexity, relationships, and depth that, for all its abstractness, suggests a model of society, or even of the environment. These wall pieces—which could almost be mistaken for models for light, colorful, ecological buildings with a strong utopian component—bring to mind the experimental architecture of the ’60s and ’70s, the sort of work that emerged in England with Archigram, for example, and in Japan with the perhaps even more radical Metabolist group.

In dealing with an artist with Asian roots, even one who may feel utterly American, one should beware of looking too hard for traces of the culture of his or her country of origin—what we find may be little more than evidence of our own stereotypical views. And yet there is often a real basis for discovery in an artist’s cultural origins; in Hashimoto’s case, besides his interest in architectural utopias, there’s also his approach to mark-making, which often evokes the Japanese design tradition, especially the sublime textile designs for kimonos. Still, while Hashimoto’s gentle and craftsmanlike approach may seem typically Japanese in its lightness—recalling, for instance, the country’s tradition of bamboo construction—we should not lose sight of the fact that this quality is simply his, a personal way of reconstructing the world.

If, in fact, the works Hashimoto showed here embody metaphors for architecture that becomes landscape and landscapes that become clouds, other works of his, not in this show, constructed with transparent spheres or carved into a high-density polyurethane that looks soft but is in fact extremely hard and shiny, are based on quite different formal archetypes drawn from nature: trees, clouds, the sea. These works, strongly figurative and distant, reveal themselves as extremely simple, almost childlike representations of their models. The sea is a series of waves, stopped in its movement by the plastic; the clouds are spheres, white and impalpable, with uncertain surfaces; the human presence is reduced to nothing more than a few signs meeting in a chaos of formal contrasts that still somehow construct a consistent and even sometimes beautiful totality.

Marco Meneguzzo

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.