at Shiseido Gallery
in the Ginza, Marunouchi area
This event has ended - (2006-06-06 - 2006-07-30)
The multiple photographs of Robin Rhode ‘throwing’ a yoyo, which is in fact a chalk drawing on a wall had me intrigued. Of course, such expectation can lead to disappointment, but after wanting to see this show for weeks, I was relieved and overjoyed to find it even better than I had already imagined it to be.
Robin Rhode combines photography, film, graffiti and performance into a new form of expression in which he can interact with his own drawn images, sometimes turning the whole performance into an animation in itself. On the gallery’s upper balcony floor, the exhibition starts with a video of the performance Rhode held on the opening night. He energetically drew a portable CD player on the wall with headphones snaking out across the wall. Intermittently, he would stop drawing and stand with his face to the wall, ‘listening’ to the headphones, and then get members of the audience to do the same. Then he draws a microphone, feeds the wire into the CD player and speaks into it, communicating with the participants through the drawing on the wall. When the video ends, you turn round and look over the balcony, down into the gallery below where that drawing still remains. Prefacing the real work with a document of its creation only a few weeks before is a neat curatorial trick that makes you feel as though the artist only just left the room.
The central space of the gallery shows three of his video works, which are in fact slideshows of cross-fading still photographs. In one of the works, two children ‘ride’ with fantastical abandon a bike he has drawn on the ground. In another, he draws a car on the wall, fits it with real tyres, and then lifts it up with cartoonish, superhuman strength. For me, the most moving video is the one in which he stands in front of a black wall, throwing animated seeds down onto the ground, ‘waters’ them with a real watering can that spouts water drawn in chalk, and then lets the seeds grow into tall, glowing plants. After that he takes a real scythe, cuts them down and then builds a bed out of them. He throws down a real bed sheet and goes to sleep on the bed surrounded by the glowing remains of his plants. It is as if he has drawn the dream he wanted to have and then dived right into it.
With all three videos the choice of music fits perfectly with the images, and the Shiseido gallery has been wise to show only three works rather than fall into the trap of providing a long, exhausting cycle of every video work the artist ever made, as often happens with displays of video art.
This tranquil gallery in the basement of the Ginza’s Shiseido building is always a good place to escape Tokyo’s incessant noise, and the especially dreamy, transcendental mood created by Rhode’s work is one of the best experiences Tokyo’s art world has on offer right now.