Yuuki Matsumura

Take Ninagawa

Yuuki Matsumura’s exhibition “Almost-Dead Sculpture” was about the suspension of disbelief. The moment viewers entered the gallery, they were challenged to account for what are, ostensibly, oversize crumpled balls of glossy magazine stock featuring provocatively posed nudes. These turned out to be made of paper-thin steel panels with X-rated images printed on them. Matsumura had manipulated the panels to look like crumpled paper—discarded pages torn out of porn magazines—strategically placing the protruding shapes of body parts within these images to emphasize the sculptures’ volume. The improbability of the objects, already suggested by their massive size, was stressed even more by their placement. Installed all across the gallery floor and even suspended from the ceiling, the sculptures occupied a liminal space relating to both motion and stillness. As the series’s name—“Almost-Dead Sculpture (Nude)” (all works 2010)—makes evident, Matsumura focuses in these works on the discrepancy between the anticipated and the actual behavior of the materials. If these shapes really were paper, as they appear to be, then the tension from compressing the sheets into balls would eventually result in a movement—once the pressure was no longer there, the balls would become animated as they continued to release the energy and spring back into the original, flatter shape. In reality, the steel sheeting Matsumura used for his sculptures, albeit ductile, once formed remained static—dead.

Also on view was Almost-Dead Sculpture (Buckets)—a set of four stackable household containers, identically dented and placed side by side and across from a matching display case topped with their respective lids, also identically manipulated. Here, viewers were challenged again: The seemingly accidental nature of the original dents seemed to conflict with the act of artistic repetition—an ironic contradiction Matsumura clearly relishes. The bucket series references the artist’s earlier replications of accident-damaged car parts shown at his first solo exhibition at this gallery, and it brings to mind (both in concept and appearance) John Chamberlain’s early car sculptures. Like Chamberlain half a century before him, the young artist examines the relationship between chance and repetition.

Matsumura’s artistic process of imposing order on what is essentially accidental—crumpled paper, dented housewares—is echoed in his playful engagement with physical facts. The implied movement of the exposed curves in the “Nude” sculptures is fully enacted in another almost-dead item, Almost-Dead Sculpture (Paper Bag), 2010—a brown paper bag twisted across the middle and displayed at eye level. A discreet electronic mechanism makes the bag twitch, just slightly, at regular intervals, exemplifying the same rhythmic repetition as the buckets, but in a temporal dimension. With this piece, perhaps the most fantastic and improbable of the works in the show, the artist dares viewers to meet him halfway, as he refutes the intrinsically spontaneous nature of a twisted bag regaining its shape by mechanizing the bag. Matsumura achieves a simulated physical presence through colliding chance and repetition, and this brings his works close to empirical truth by creating a surrogate reality. The rest is left up to the viewer.

Julia Friedman