New York

Jacob Hashimoto, Skyfarm Fortress, 2014, acrylic, paper, wood, dimensions variable.

Jacob Hashimoto, Skyfarm Fortress, 2014, acrylic, paper, wood, dimensions variable.

Jacob Hashimoto

Mary Boone Gallery | Uptown

Jacob Hashimoto, Skyfarm Fortress, 2014, acrylic, paper, wood, dimensions variable.

To say that Jacob Hashimoto makes kites, then strings them together in the air, will do as a description of his process but gives no sense at all of the visual quality of Skyfarm Fortress, 2014, the installation that made up this show. To get a sense of the work’s presence, you have to understand that it contained thousands of kites, each a small square or circle of mulberry paper, from four to eight inches across, stretched on a bamboo frame; that the kites were multicolored, some intricately patterned, some monochrome, though even the monochromes kept a sense of pattern and texture through their visible structure of slender bamboo spars; and that Hashimoto grouped them by color and design, then hung them in large, loose geometries almost from floor to ceiling and almost from wall to wall of the gallery. Finally, the sloping roof at this gallery’s Chelsea space is a full thirty-five feet high at its highest point, along its east wall, running down to around thirteen and a half feet on its west. To fill this airy, skylit space with color was purely spectacular.

Hashimoto has had several shows at Mary Boone in the past (two of them at its smaller and lower-ceilinged uptown space) but has previously shown wall pieces, arranging his kites in neat squares and rectangles to be viewed only from the front. Although those works come eight inches or so off the wall, and show qualities of layering, depth, and transparency impossible in pigment on canvas, they ultimately fall into an at this point long tradition of painting without painting, making me think, for example, of Marcel Broodthaers’s panels of eggs, or of the many media of Joe Zucker, or of El Anatsui’s glamorously shimmering tapestries of liquor-bottle caps. The large installations that Hashimoto has done elsewhere—this was his first in New York—are quite another thing.

The principle of coming out into space through suspension from the ceiling of course has precedents of its own, in, for example, the sculptures of Nancy Rubins, which make bulbous and ungainly forms airborne, or the midair carpets of small copper tiles that Loren Madsen once hung from dense thickets of silk thread. Hashimoto is closer to this second model in that the effect of Skyfarm Fortress depended partly on its combination of scales, the grandeur of the way it filled space in tension with the slight size of its individual units. Collaged out of cut papers, the kites were not only miniature but delicate and thin, yet they made up an entire, complex environment for the visitor to explore, looking around and upward, gaining a new view with each step. Similarly, while each kite offered something to look at, particularly the richly detailed and patterned ones, there were also overall shapes to be deciphered, some clusters—a square yellow-and-black column at the work’s heart, say—perhaps suggesting the towers and battlements of the title’s fortress, others the white clouds of its sky. Yet if one sometimes thought of the architecture of a Japanese fort in a Kurosawa film, any such reference was quickly overtaken by the overall flow of color and pattern. Skyfarm Fortress was a crowd-pleaser, but none the worse for that.

David Frankel