Kanagawa, Japan

Taro Izumi, Untitled, 2010, mixed media, dimensions variable.

Taro Izumi, Untitled, 2010, mixed media, dimensions variable.

Taro Izumi

Kanagawa Prefectural Gallery

Taro Izumi, Untitled, 2010, mixed media, dimensions variable.

Taro Izumi’s videos and performances combine sheer physical sensation with slapstick gestures that reflect the influence of contemporary cartoons, animation, and computer games. Izumi frequently invents task-based actions that resemble children’s games with simple but absurd rules; by doggedly following such rules in performance, and documenting the process with deliberately fragmented videos that treat images and sounds as pure sensory data, he attains such effects as the spatial and temporal extension of pictorial expression and the evocation of unconscious drives. Izumi’s latest solo show, “Kneading,” demonstrated the maturation of this strategy by incorporating the material effects of physical performance and the architectural eccentricities of the exhibition space into the visual experience of the work.

Among the seven large and small video installations constituting the show, the most spectacular was The Cultivation of a Shoe Bottom, 2010, a five-thousand-square-foot video projection onto the ground floor, to be viewed from above. The video shows Izumi and his assistants building up and playing with a gigantic version of sugoroku, a kind of board game. Each day during the course of the show, the video grew longer as it showed the artist and his crew making further progress; the work functioned as a kind of painting evolving in time and space, while the bird’s-eye view of the scene made the workers look tiny, like the Lilliputians in Gulliver’s Travels. At the same time, projected on the front wall, an enlarged view of the same floor work showed the artist wearing a bear mask and pouring various colors of paint and other materials over the game, conveying a sense of the grotesque and the uncanny in the midst of the innocent atmosphere of a children’s playground.

Little Cammy, 2010, consisted of two video projections: In one, shown on the side wall of a hall outside the main gallery, six people push a boxlike hut—each of its sides more than six feet across—until it tumbles over; the other, projected on a monitor set in the same hut, shows Izumi standing inside it, his face and body smeared with the paints of various colors, flour, and other materials that splash over him from falling buckets above him as the hut tips over. This absurd comparison of the artist’s own body to a canvas undergoing an automatic painting process, as well as the contrast between the gratuitous labor and its modest painterly effect, emphasizes the paradox, inherent in Izumi’s artistic strategy, of making irrational play a means of automatic drawing or painting.

The show’s most ambitious piece was the video installation Untitled, 2010, which consisted of four plywood walls set in a row, equidistant from one another, with green fluid oozing out of a hole cut in the center of each wall, and the video image of the same trickling paint projected onto it from a projector set above each wall. This experiential device functioned like an animated film that creates a moving image through a succession of drawn images, but here the idea was developed spatially rather than in time. When the spectator stood at the center of the first wall and looked through the hole, the ooze and its projected image seemed like layers of green paint with a thin hollow space running through the center, creating a fleeting illusion of three-dimensional space that conjured up an image of an empty path receding to the back of a garden. In this work and in the others on view here, Izumi’s setups enabled the spectator to move between different levels of sensory and mental experience, from action to painting, from nonsense to the aesthetic.

Midori Matsui