Keiko Narahashi: Picturehood
Hudson Franklin, April 23 – June 13, 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 is an elegant table, which, with its legs heavily off-kilter, appears incapable of structural support yet holds a mass of black elements. This playfulness with balance and gravity evokes an Alice in Wonderland mood. The comically long list of dimensions of “Untitled (one black vase split)”— 57 1/2” x 32 1/2” x 6 3/4” + 10 3/4” x 5” x 1/2”—reads like an equation sans equal sign.
“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 bottles to two dimensions (“Still Life (photograph)”). What’s more, the viewer is able to pick up and rearrange similar bottles in the back of the gallery, a reminder that sight is an activity of perpetual arranging.
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 its intactness.
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 does clay predict?
Laura Hunt is an artist living in Brooklyn.
Channeling Robert Ashley: Object Collection at The BrickBy Dan Joseph
DEC 22–JAN 23 | Music
At its core, Automatic Writing is a kind of ritual magic rendered on magnetic tape. Imbued with a sense of occult-like mysticism, it transforms sound and language into a surrealist psychological space. Developed in the studio over a five year period, Ashley wrote that Automatic Writing became a kind of opera in my imagination that conjures a set of four shadowy characters. It is this hallucinatory auditory space, this imaginary opera, that Object Collection sought to animate on the stage.
Cora Cohen: Works from the 1980sBy Alfred Mac Adam
OCT 2022 | ArtSeen
Cora Cohen: Works from the 1980s is a time capsule, and like all time capsules it is an enigma. Time capsules are supposed to provide people of the future a sample of things typical of the moment when they are buried. Which raises the critical issue of perspective: are we to understand these eight glorious pieces according to what we think they meant thirty-five years ago, or should we understand them according to what they say to us today? Even if we lived through them, the 1980s are as irrecoverable as the 1880s: an abyss separates us from that decade even if human timememorymay trick us into thinking we actually know that remote moment perfectly.
Leiko Ikemura: Anima Alma - Works 19812022By Jonathan Goodman
DEC 22–JAN 23 | ArtSeen
Born in Japan, Leiko Ikemura left for Spain to study language and art before moving to Switzerland and eventually to Germany, where she currently works. An artist of subtle feminist assertion, Ikemura has chosen in most paintings to represent women and in some instances children. Ikemura is well known in Europe and has shown extensively there, but this is her first exhibition in America. Her painting style tends to be diffuse and sensuous, in a manner not so distant from the art of someone like Marlene Dumas. Her training directed her toward a compelling mixture of figuration bordering on abstraction, even when she is rendering people.
Dewey Crumpler: The Complete Hoodie Works, 1993–PresentBy Maddie Klett
NOV 2021 | ArtSeen
Dewey Crumpler is a painter living in the Bay Area. His solo exhibition The Complete Hoodie Works, 1993Present at Cushion Works in San Franciscos Mission District features over 100 small paintings on canvas made over the past 28 years.