at The National Art Center, Tokyo
in the Roppongi, Nogizaka area
This event has ended - (2008-03-05 - 2008-05-06)
The introduction to the National Art Center Tokyo’s “Artist File 2008” exhibition reads like a disclaimer: “Based neither on a specific theme or selection criteria such as age, form or media, the artists in the show were simply assembled on the recommendation of the curators.” This is the inaugural presentation of what is to be a yearly showcase of what is new and interesting in contemporary art; with future trends still a glimpse in the art historian’s eye, the rest of the exhibition is refreshingly text free.
Each of the diverse eight artists has his or her own room in the gallery in which to present a “unique world of expression.” Indeed, each of these rooms is a world of its own. Kei Takemura, working in natural fibers, transparency sheets, marking pens, and beds (!) turns the white gallery walls into a remembered, imagined room. Hiroe Saeki’s ink drawings, spiked with teapots and handbags and lashed with bright acrylic paint draw the viewer in close with their exquisite detail into a fantasy world ruled by contrasts and patterns.
Video/installation artist Mio Shirai offers a quirky, comical, and slightly Surrealist take on exploration, while Hiraki Sawa, also working in video, hones in on switches and rhythms, layering images such as Ferris wheels, flickering lights, and birds flapping their wings on a series of screens. Photographers Elina Brotherus and Polixeni Papapetrou present excerpts from their own lives: Brotherus through posed self-portraits of herself looking inward and outward and rich landscapes taken from her native Scandinavia and Papapetrou through dramatized scenes of children playing not so innocent games, inspired from her childhood in Australia.
Oddly enough, both artists working in sculpture choose air as their medium: Masanori Sukenari displays a form created by gray balloons, somewhat reminiscent of an air ship, though one with an animated quality and alive with breath and Takefumi Ichikawa shapes helium with transparent film into mesmerizing ethereal irregular-shaped balloons that are suspended in mid-air.
Some rooms are more likely to compel you to linger in them than others, some might captivate you and even puzzle you. With each room completely different than the last, the exhibition has a ‘house of wonder’ feel as you follow the path through the galleries in anticipation of what will be around the next corner. For example, Sawa’s room is completely dark, the entrance protected with two sets of curtains; the visitor enters from one side and emerges from another into Ichikawa’s room of cultivated lightness and air, the final room in the exhibition. Without distorting mirrors and tilted floors, the sequential shifts in perspective are sufficient to make your head reel.
The feeling is entirely different from attending, say the Modigliani exhibit housed in the same museum. With Artist’s File there is no preconceived reverence for the artists and works are laid bare on the walls sans textual guidance for the your eyes to pick them apart, ponder them from afar, and turn them around in your mind, and ultimately wonder, “the curators are drawn to these works, am I?”