Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin
Inspired by Yume No Shima Island, an island made entirely
from a gigantic heap of trash in Tokyo Bay, Aya Takano's solo
exhibition, Wild dogs, hawks, owls, cats, a landfill the size
of 44 and a half Tokyo Domes, the stratosphere is about "Garbage".
This gritty subject matter is, however, masked in the beautiful
colors and imagery employed by Takano. The Japanese pop artist
was trained in a style called “Kawaii”, which
means “cute”. Her titles are long, slightly absurd,
and poetic. Dark and sexual undertones are hidden in complex,
feminine pictorial worlds rendered in the visual language
of popular futuristic manga cartoons.
Takano is associated with the “Superflat” movement;
a term invented by the artist Takashi Murakami. She is a member
of his collective and art company called Kaikai Kiki which
was formed in 2001 to represent and promote a select group
of young artists by producing merchandise and organizing events.
The other members of this collective include, Chiho Aoshima,
Mr., Chinatsu Ban, Mahomi Kunikata, and Rei Sato.
In a painting entitled She saw the liquid through the thin
rubber, three mischievous large-eyed nymphets, clad in almost
nothing but cotton panties, frolic on a bed. The one in the
center stretches gracefully across the mattress on her tiny
tummy, revealing her bare bottom with two symmetrical blue
dots. The shapes are ambiguous; they could be read as tattoos
or dimples. She fumbles with a white liquid-filled condom
over a trash can. A pair of slender feminine legs with falling
socks, sanguine knees, and white under shorts, frame the foreground
in a triangular “A” form. The hands of this figure
grasp the waistband of the undergarment, either gesturing
the act of pulling them on, or taking them off. This mystery,
along with the cropping of the head and upper torso invite
the viewer to try to complete the figure. One can only surmise
that the androgynous waif, who glances coyly to the side,
probably just made use of the condom. Golden hearts and spheres
float in the upper right hand corner, perhaps referencing
the kind of drawings that children make in playful narrations.
In the accompanying wall text, Takano notes, “I wanted
to capture the moment that something becomes garbage.”
There is an apocalyptic feel to a painting called The wind
came. The vast sky was a light blue. She sees a world that
envelopes the entire stratosphere. In the center foreground,
an elegant and slender feminine figure in white boy shorts
confronts the viewer. The corners of her simplified cartoonish
mouth turn down as she maternally cradles a wounded dog. Her
rose-pink shoes are adorned with black bows that look like
menacing eyes. A blue cat in profile sits on her head. Similar
to how layer upon layer of garbage can be piled in a trash
heap; Takano buries imagery and meaning in the pictorial space.
There are elements that seem random, like they could have
been edited out, but the artist seems determined to rescue
every symbol here, taking care not to discard any possibility.
Behind the central figure, a bulldozer cradles white bundles
of garbage topped with a reclining nude girl who strikes the
kind of supine pose we associate with fashion magazines. A
grouping of red clouds in the top left corner is shaped like
a sinister and sadistic smiling face, which simultaneously
looks down upon the circumstances of the painting, and outwards
towards the viewer. A mother dog, with many babies in tow,
moves from the outer right side of the painting toward the
center. Although there is flatness to the work, this painting
has a kind of Renaissance perspective in that everything,
including a sense of past, present, and future, seems to freeze
and revolve around the center of the canvas.
Flying bananas, grapes, a bitten slice of watermelon, a fruity
drink garnish and a tube of lipstick all appear to defy gravity
in a painting called She heard that this dust chute connects
to a furnace. She drank too much wine. These items could possibly
be traveling towards or away from a dust shoot in the bottom
right corner of the picture plane. Two girls with the characteristic
reddened knees and large eyes also float in the canvas, with
no true horizon line, tell-tale shadow or sense of grounding.
Their faces seem to imply that some sort of accident has occurred.
They are mostly naked, but with socks and jewelry. The central
figure wears a colorful blue and pink scarf decorated with
drawings. Her large eyes don’t have pupils, but the
left one has a simple drawing of a ghost-like shape inside,
while the right eye reflects a star. It seems that all of
the works in the show have paintings and drawings within the
paintings. Everything is overflowing and rich, and upon long
meditations new things are revealed. There is a bottle of
wine and a sink full of dirty dishes between the two young
ladies. Over-indulgence is a possible theme in this particular
piece, but although many complex devices and narrations occur
in the work, the viewer can take a certain comfort and even
delight in Takano’s ability to strip things down, to
Countless layers of ideas are hidden in the facets of this
work; they are often disguised on the surface by a bubbly,
childlike and innocent appearance. Though these paintings
have a futuristic, Sci-Fi feel, there is more than a hint
of the spirit of the Fauves of early 20th Century France.
It’s easy to get caught up in the sparkle and alure
of such colorful narratives; indeed, Takano shows the viewer
an entrance to subversive content, the doorways to our own
The Front Room Gallery
By Mary Hrbacek
The most striking aspect of Bezzubov’s mega-sized photographs
of nature’s darker moods is the spectrum of warm, glowing
earth tones that meld with the misty light of a new day dawning.
The moral of this show, Things Fall Apart, may simply be that
a new day will come, even in the aftermath of monumental destruction.
There is not a single person in sight, nor any structures
left standing in these images that document the strangely
calm period just after natural disasters strike. A series
of five disasters is presented here, starting in 2001, that
includes tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes and
a tsunami. These pictures focus on that humbling period of
resignation when the traumatic event has passed, when harmony
and unity once more abound. Bezzubov employs a large format
camera to create images of great detail and poignancy. These
moving, heart-wrenching scenes are menacing in their ultimate
message; these are after all real events. Whether it is the
scene of an earthquake in India, a wildfire in California
or the devastating path of a tornado in America’s Mid
West, the result is eerily similar.
In terms of scale and sudden loss of life, the tsunami is
the most daunting of natural disasters. The word “tsunami”
removes some of the sting from the English term “tidal
wave.” There is nevertheless a macabre aesthetic to
such overwhelming destruction. Presented in dyptichs and trypdichs,
the horizontal formats of these photographs makes it easy
for the eye to scan the works, gliding over landscapes in
which every building or tree has been dismembered and transformed
into delicate piles of rubble.
In the only vertical diptych, the black upstanding trees
create a branching grid-like barrier that partially obscures
the remnants of ruined stone foundations where homes once
stood. The panoramic views, where houses can be discerned
on the horizon, reveal the scope of the damaged terrain.
To be sure, the show also draws criticism for seeming to
aesthetisize human suffering, but such arguments miss the
point. The cycle of destruction and regeneration, of death
and birth, is a reality that is not subject to human contravention.
The sun does not discriminate; it shines equally on everything,
beauty and ugliness alike. Despite the muted palette, these
pictures present stunning vistas of natural wreckage that
mirror man-made war zones. The vastness of the devastation
is at once appalling and breathtaking.
SOFA NEW YORK
Anatomy of an Art Fair
By Michael MacInnis
We take for granted today the symbiotic relationship between
art, fashion and design; both Vanity Fair and W Magazine have
had their respective art world covers proclaiming the era
of the fashionable art collector, and the venerable Art Basel
Miami Beach art fair has had its “Art Loves Design”
party from the very first show in 2001.
But in 1993, when the Chicago based artist sculpture, Mark
Lyman, had the idea for an art fair that would give the decorative
arts the same respect normally reserved for a traditional
fine art fair, he was something of a maverick. Dubbed SOFA
CHICAGO, (Sculpture Objects and Functional Art), the first
fair was held 1994 in the Sheraton Hotel and Towers, which
appropriately enough is located within walking distance of
both the Chicago Art Institute and “Magnificent Mile”,
that city’s upscale shopping thoroughfare.
The fair was an instant hit, drawing some 14,000 visitors
to its roster of 58 galleries. The following year SOFA CHICAGO,
produced by Lyman’s company, Expressions of Culture,
moved into Festival Hall at Chicago’s Navy Pier, the
same venue which hosted Art Chicago in its heady heyday. Billed
as the largest and longest continually running art fair in
Chicago, last year’s SOFA CHICAGO drew 34,000 visitors
and featured about 100 international galleries.
Lyman’s Expressions of Culture launched SOFA NEW YORK
in 1998, setting up shop in the Seventh Regiment Armory on
Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Compared to its formidable
Chicago based sibling, SOFA NEW YORK has more of a boutique
feel; its debut attracted a respectable 9000 visitors, and
last year’s show topped out at reported 13,500 visitors.
Despite its large scale productions in two world class cities;
with SOFA CHICAGO taking place in early November, and SOFA
NEW YORK in early June, Lyman’s Expressions of Culture
remained essentially a mom and pop operation, with just six
full-time employees and some part time help. As such, the
company was subject to the same seasonal cash flow issues
that preoccupy decision making in all such businesses. But
all of that changed in 2005.
DMG, a subsidiary of London's Daily Mail & General Trust,
with revenues in in the hundred of millions, purchased SOFA
CHICAGO and SOFA NEW YORK in 2005 for an undisclosed sum.
Now the Chicago based artist sculpture, turned entrepreneur,
Mark Lyman, is back in the creative seat once again. Is there
a SOFA LONDON on the horizon? Stay tuned.