GOINGS ON ABOUT TOWN
The Brooklyn Rail
Keiko Narahashi: Picturehood by Laura Hunt
Hudson Franklin April 23- June 6, 2009
The majority of works in Keiko Narahashi’s Picturehood embody the continuum between two and three dimensions. For Narahashi, “picturehood” seems to imply that a picture, or representation, is as present and material as any three dimensional object. Picturehood, on view at Hudson Franklin, recalls pragmatist philosophers’ “objecthood,” in which an object can be either a physical thing or a thought (the object of mental focus). A prime example is “Painting,” a tray filled with dried black acrylic paint hung on the wall, which equates the action of painting and the product of that action with paint itself.
Narahashi’s exhibit suggests that a sculpture is a picture, and a picture is a sculpture.
The first thing I noticed in the show was a found child’s chair in close proximity to “Flat Chair,” the latter a white clay chair rolled flat and hung on the wall. This work recalls the sculpture of Richard Artschwager (in particular “Splatter Chair,” 1992) which, through forceful and playful deformation, grants domestic objects illusive power. An important difference between “Flat Chair” and “Splatter Chair” is that Narahashi’s found chair inhabits the same room as her created chair; the found chair maintains an important stance as part of the artwork. “Flat Shoe” humorously transforms a large clay shoe into a nearly unrecognizable smushed mass in the corner of the gallery. The buttons on the surface, really symbols of buttons, directly refer to the 1950s era child’s shoe that inspired the work. What’s clever about this piece is that the “shoe” looks like something you would find squished under a shoe; this shoe is simultaneously the flattener (by association) and the flattened (in literal presence). Significantly, the viewer is able to pick up and hold the child’s shoe in the back of the gallery. Narahashi does not let the context of the gallery space blunt the pleasure of wanting to touch and then touching.
An artist with a clear love of metonymy, Narahashi seems to be always paying slightly more attention to the parts than the whole. In “Untitled (one black vase split),” a ceramic black vase, which is itself halved, stands in as the label for a complex assemblage. The base of this work
“Untitled (stacked),” made of polystyrene, canvas, wood, and oil paint, makes me wonder how many silhouettes one solid structure can have. From the side, stacked blocks get incrementally larger and wider and then recede just as gradually back towards the wall. The dry surface reads as wet, and I’m guessing the work’s actual weight is a fraction of that implied. These inverse visuals abound in Narahashi’s work, not as “gotcha” tricks but rather as intuitive studies of perception.
Bottles play several roles in Picturehood. In “Still Life (some bottles on a table),” Giorgio Morandi’s wavering painted bottles seem to have materialized into objects that, by some magic, remain metaphysical. Unlike in Morandi’s paintings, these bottles have space and air between them; an edge of one bottle is never simultaneously the edge or shadow of another. It would be interesting to see a single mass of clay that appeared to be several independent bottles. Narahashi pushes this work further by photographing the sculptural still life, returning the
Unlike the bottles in the “Still Life” pieces, “Flat Bottle,” a clay bottle that has been split two ways down its center and rolled smooth, has completely departed from its precedent. In fact, its most immediate visual parallel is a Greek cross. In this case Narahashi has taken the interior of the bottle, in which there is usually air or some liquid, and made it into a dense solid which relies on the absence of air pockets for
Narahashi’s work is most powerful when it employs mediums that contradict its appearance and connotations. Her earlier box paintings made of gessoed parchment paper were often mistaken for ceramic pieces, and this visual ambiguity seems to have nudged Narahashi towards her successful experimentation with clay. If paper predicts clay, then what will clay predict?
By Nora Griffin
Inhabiting the gallery’s back wall and baseboard is Keiko Narahashi’s installation, “assembler,” a grouping of small boxy shapes of varying sizes, painted in bright white with red and black accents. The forms range in character from candy-like pills to geometric constructivism, effectively recalling both the building blocks of childhood, and the deeply learned lessons of painting all at once. Like “Eight,” and “Gate,” the objects of “assembler” were created from a repetitive process of material transformation. In this case paper boxes coated in layers of paint to achieve their own individual architecture.
The overriding mood in the gallery is inexplicably hopeful, perhaps a subliminal effect of the Buckminster Fuller term, “Tensegrity,” given to the exhibition. Fuller’s theory of tensegrity, the harmonious synergy and tension of parts within an integral structure, was later adopted by Carlos Castaneda to define ancient physical and mental exercises (“magical passes”) practiced by Mexican Shamans. By doing so he effectively translates a construction-based theory of energy onto the human scale, as the bodily energy that passes fluidly from waking to dreaming consciousness. In narrative form this is perhaps best defined by Borges’ magician of “The Circular Ruins,” who at the moment of his death finds that he is not a mortal, but rather merely the dream of another. Witness to the ever-shifting zone between found object and art object, construction and luminosity, visitors to Klaus von Nichtssagend’s “Tensegrity” are given the privilege of the dreamer forever awakening to new perceptual realities.
Nora Griffin is an artist and a contributing writer for The Brooklyn Rail.
Okay folks, it’s a strange name, coined by the recently celebrated utopian guru Bucky Fuller (don’t miss his mini-retrospective at the Whitney this summer), and it describes the forces of dynamic tension which hold up things like his geodesic-domes. For this collection of works, it describes not only their physical states, but the strange aesthetic and philosophical realm that these artists are working in. “Gate” (2008) by Michael DeLucia confronts viewers as they enter the gallery. This section of chain link stands eight feet high and caries a familiar quotidian quality. But this section of fence is coated in a thick layer of concrete and made me think of an ice storm. Odd remnants found after a forest fire might describe Elisa Lendvay’s small sculptures fashioned from charred logs, paper mache and acrylic. Like a classic Modernist, (or a nuclear physicist) Keiko Narahashi explores the reality of painting by breaking it into dozens of small pieces. In “assembler” (2008) the artist arranged these pieces on the wall and floor and finds a sculptural element in the surface, color and volume of the divided parts. Joy Curtis builds a column whose vertical striations of paint and wood make it appear as if it was extruded, under pressure, directly from the gallery floor. Finally Jim Lee takes the whole idea of making a painting on canvas and complicates it to hilarious ends. In “untitled (Shaft)” (2007-08) a narrow vertical painting has a stretcher that could double as a miniature wooden suspension bridge. Funky staples, nails and drippy glue keep his structures from becoming prissy. — James Kalm
The Brooklyn Rail
Keiko Narahashi by Jennifer Riley
'how long have I been sleeping?'
Hudson Franklin Gallery January 11--February 17, 2007
Keiko Narahashi's glass cabinets, paper structures and mixed media objects occupy two historically distinct categories: seventeenth and eighteenth century curiosity cabinets and contemporary installation art. They could be provisional shrines, memorials or artifacts, all built from multi-size boxes of Italian parchment paper dipped in gesso.
In his 1962 book, The Shape of Time, George Kubler proposes a theory of historical change as a succession of manmade things as opposed to the commonly held view of change based on style or specific biographies. He argues that there are recognizably early and late versions of the same gestures that can be linked by formal relationships rather than discontinuous inventions or styles.
European curiosity cabinets, which contained both natural and manmade objects, are considered precursors to our modern-day museums. Narahashi's six glass cabinets form part of a series entitled Modern Tomb Furnishings, and contain collections of objects made by the artist that simulate the aura of artifacts. They are installed on somber-colored walls that lend them an air of mock-museology. The objects bring to mind Bronze Age tools, primitive tidal markers, and, in one case, miniature architectural models. As referenced by the title, in ancient cultures such as the Egyptians and the Chinese, belief in the afterlife created a vast industry for objects destined solely for funerary use. Narahashi's collections could thus be mimicking what would have been produced as part of some immense mortuary deposit, or perhaps be seen as a witty commentary on the number of 'art objects' being made today that far exceed the demand. Like memento mori, Narahashi's curiosity cabinets might, as she says, "be a hedge against a possible future." Taking this thought further, might she not be suggesting that after passing through several hands, these works too could land in the basement of a museum only to collect dust?
Perhaps in playful response to Kubler's theory, as you pass from the first part of the gallery to the second, it seems as if Narahashi's cabinet objects reappear, but in a transformed state. In "Gravity's Rainbow," two square white pillars, one slightly shorter than the other, spawn squished stacks of painted paper boxes arching towards the center with a Slinky-like configuration. Extinguished, nearly spent candles sit precariously atop the pile of boxes, lines of melted wax commingling with drips of paint. Like votive offerings to unnamed deities or roadside shrines, this piece and many of the others evoke the sense of unknown tragedy.
In a post 9/11-Iraq War-tsunami-Katrina-world, it is difficult not to view some of this work as a reflection of the fragmented imagery from those disasters. However, the remarkable strength of the works in this show is how fertile they are in their associations and how their sly, gentle wit lifts them out of the harness of the present to conflate notions of an imagined past with a definite sense of future possibilities. What seems even more remarkable is that this is the artist's first solo show.
the BROOKLYN RAIL
Greater Brooklyn CRG Gallery
Casually demonstrating that the abstract can be disguised as “minimal with a twist”, the highly sophisticated works introduced by Jim Lee and Keiko Narahashi blend the boundaries between painting and sculpture. Whereas Lee’s “Ultra Blue Wood” might seem an imperfect flat oval from afar, it manifests itself as a three-dimensional wall construction as soon as seen from up close, changing from a succulent hole to a protruding force. In comparison, Narahashi’s “Untitled (Small Red & White)”, a skillful assemblage of varying rectangles held in a sugar cane palette, appears much softer. In fact, similar to sensations often generated by Claes Oldenburg’s large latex xculptures, Narahashi’s delicate piece makes it hard for any viewer to obey the “do not touch, do not squeeze, or lovingly squish the artwork” rule, common in so many exhibition halls.
Art in Review
By THE NEW YORK TIMES
An exhibition devoted to the work of artists who lack gallery representation can indicate one of two things: it can reflect the kinds of work that galleries aren't interested in at the moment, or it can just uncover more of the kinds of work already being shown. Unfortunately, the cheerfully diverse survey that is "Greater Brooklyn" falls into the latter category. Perhaps the most interesting fact about this show is that it was organized from 400 open-call submissions. Its organizers, Glen Baldridge and Alex Dodge, young artists who work at CRG, selected work by 30 artists. The entire process was conducted by email. Excepting the unusual zero-level gallery representation, the show shares some attributes with its inspiration, the current "Greater New York" exhibition at P.S. 1. There is too much work for the space available and yet not enough from each artist to give much of an idea of individual potential. In addition, it is too diverse to have any curatorial shape. Representation, in two and three dimensions, from naïve to fanatically realistic, dominates. On the wall, paper is preferred to canvas. In what seems to be a disturbing trend right now, women are grossly in the minority. Works that are abstract or in three dimensions tend to stand out, including Brian Montuori's cartoonlike sculpture of a lifesize safe hanging over the doorway; Gretchen Scherer's folded-paper monoprint of a pair of abandoned jeans and pumps; Ian Pedigo's fragile yet savage-looking bundle of jagged sticks painted gray and white and bound with a yellow cord; and Jim Lee's brightly colored oval relief whose self-descriptive title is "Ultra Blue Wood." Also worth noting are works by Eric Doeringer, George Boorujy, Josh Brand, Andrew Kuo, Keiko Narahashi, Butt Johnson, Allison Gildersleeve, Zak Prekop and William Touchet. Competence runs high throughout, so if this show doesn't accomplish much beyond superficial introductions, it also doesn't rule anyone out.
- ROBERTA SMITH