by Drew Martin
The Algus Greenspon gallery write-up for their current show of E’wao Kagoshima’s drawings, paintings, collages, and dioramas starts with….”Slowly, a rich and inclusive picture of Post-War Japanese art is emerging in New York.” This is followed by a list of shows that they say “have contributed important cultural and geographical context.”
I have a similar/parallel feeling, but this new clarity is frankly more a matter of my dropping a number of stereotypes that I had constructed based mainly on an image projected by Japan itself, and that is one of obedience, diligence, efficiency, modernity, and ingenuity.
These are all positive traits but they do not leave much room for reflection or begin to scratch the surface of what modern Japanese art is about. So when American media picks up on more personal revelations, they seemed oddly kinky and bizarrely over-reactive to a strict social order and a demanding business environment.
Like all cultures there are many sides to Japan and the Japanese, expatriates included. So it is important to watch films such as Fine, Totally Fine and absorb as much art by Japanese artists as possible, especially if you find yourself quick to summarize the culture and people.
Kagoshima is an interesting example of the expatriate artist. He was born in Japan in 1945, and moved to New York in 1976. What surprised me the most in this exhibit is his range. There are both abstract and surreal/fantasy drawings, as well as quirky, naïve-art-like dioramas, paintings and collages.
The top image here is the painting on the outside of one of his dioramas, titled In God We Vote, from 2007. Three of the other dioramas have Venus in the title, one of which includes a collage with a magazine cut-out of Paris Hilton.
The untitled middle image from 1980 is his most graphic collage. It shows three young women spying on something from the bushes, that being the nude pictured beneath them. The bottom portion of the collage is of a knee-high-stocking-wearing, otherwise naked model with a large header from the original layout that still reads as SHAVE even though it is cut in half, which highlights her smooth privies.
On top of this erotic image, Kagoshima lays a thin, white line that tracks the angle of her head and shoulders, and the positioning of her right arm, and lower legs. In doing so it removes her from pornography if I read these marks as the lines you might draw to start a live nude drawing or if I think of them as something computer generated that reads only the angles but misses the flesh.
The bottom image here is one of his rich charcoal drawings from 1978, which is free of his figures and narratives.
Other Museum of Peripheral Art posts about Japanese artists/works include:
Drawn to the Fantasies of Toshio Saeki
EAST vs. WEST: The Graffiti Paintings of Gajin Fujita
This is So Hard...And it's So Fantastic...Now I've Got Nothing
Fine, Totally Fine