“Vertical Emptiness” – Yasuaki Onishi on Material Ethereality

yasuaki-onishi-vertical-emptiness-kyoto-procured-design

Photo : Oshima Takuya

Many of you may remember the work of contemporary artist Yasuaki Onishi, whose site-specific installations investigate varying notions of mass and volume. For his most recent exhibit at the Kyoto Art Center, the artist integrated new materials into his process – namely gathered tree branches and crystalized urea. The installation, entitled “Vertical Emptiness,” plays to the familiar atmospheric resonances of his previous work, but with an untried organic quality.

yasuaki-onishi-vertical-emptiness-detail-drawing-wall-procured-design

Photo : Oshima Takuya

yasuaki-onishi-vertical-emptiness-installation-detail-procured-design

Photo : Oshima Takuya

The installation itself is comprised of two complementary pieces: a two-dimensional work spanning the entire back wall and a large-scale installation filling most of the exhibition space. There is a theatrical disparity between them, especially concerning volume, tone, and texture.

It would be difficult to intuit without an explanation, but the processes used to create both pieces are strikingly similar. At their core, both works start out as wood. Whereas the two-dimensional piece is comprised of a series of milled and manufactured wooden panels, the central installation consists of fallen tree branches. However, both works are subsequently coated with layers of hot glue (the difference of course being the application process).

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The Most Popular Post of 2012: Invoking Pygmalion – Yasuaki Onishi’s “Reverse Volume” Installations

Reverse of Volume, 2009; 593 x 360 x 2000 cm; Glue, plastic sheet; Aomori Contemporary Art Centre, Aomori, Japan

Reverse of Volume, 2009; 593 x 360 x 2000 cm; Glue, plastic sheet; Aomori Contemporary Art Centre, Aomori, Japan

Of the existing accounts of Yasuaki Onishi‘s portfolio, few have investigated his work beyond commending the artists’ ability to manipulate space. However, there is a strong link which runs throughout his entire body of work – namely the interaction between the ideas and implications surrounding kinetics.

Formally, Onishi’s work not only manipulates, but depends on movement in order to convey the meaning behind each piece. In the two-dimensional realm, his long-exposure photography in his Shaved & Rolled series softens otherwise violent and immediate jolts of fire.  Similarly in his sculptural installations, Onishi’s works rise and fall – respiring as if to possess their own sentience.

"Reverse of Volume" RG, 2012; Commission, Rice University Art Gallery, Houston, Texas; Photo: Nash Baker

“Reverse of Volume” RG, 2012; Commission, Rice University Art Gallery, Houston, Texas; Photo: Nash Baker

Yet while elements of movement are prominent throughout his portfolio, the most striking example of Onishi’s interest in motion lies in his Reverse Volume series. In relying solely on plastic sheeting, string, and black glue, the artist crafts monumental installations of imposing presence from materials which lack any substantial mass of their own. Although appearing firm, the mountainous incarnations gently bulge, crumple, and collapse in the natural drafts within the exhibition space. Thus breaking from the use of fans in his other works, the oscillation in Reverse Volume is calculated but not provoked.

Reverse of Volume, 2009; 593 x 360 x 2000 cm; Glue, plastic sheet; Aomori Contemporary Art Centre, Aomori, Japan

Reverse of Volume, 2009; 593 x 360 x 2000 cm; Glue, plastic sheet; Aomori Contemporary Art Centre, Aomori, Japan

As a viewer, one is left to ponder Onishi’s paradox of mass and anti-mass.  How does he reconcile the tacit respiration and ghost-like drifting of his installation? What does it mean to allow the slightest breeze to coerce a formation reminiscent of looming mountainscapes? A possible reading hinges on interpreting the piece as a fundamentally kinetic presence.  Because of the choice in materials, the installation can not physically (or conceivably) remain static. Rather, it is manipulated by the surrounding atmosphere, just as a seaside cliff crumbles into the assailing waves below. In creating such formidable structures from delicate materials, the artist suggests that there is no such thing as the immovable. The precarious and impressionable existence of Onishi’s installation in the exhibition space characterizes our world as a whole. Playing on the inherently ephemeral nature of installation art, Reverse Volume symbolizes inevitable change in our environment. It reminds us that what we hold as permanent amounts to nothing more than a cursory moment between growth and siege – a humbling notion still fresh in the minds of his audience following the natural disaster last year in Fukushima Prefecture.

If you are interested (and reasonably local), his work will open to the public on the 13th of April in the Rice University Installation Gallery in Houston and will be up until the 24th of June. Onishi will give a gallery talk at 6:00P on opening night with a volley at noon on the 14th. Admission is free so there’s no reason to miss out. Also, check out the gallery below for some high resolution images courtesy of the curator.

And I’m Off To Get An iPad

Great news for the art world! Rice Gallery (the only university art museum in the United States that caters exclusively to installation work) just released an app for the iPad that catalogues each site-specific exhibition commissioned by the school since 1995. In other words, it’s an all access key to the works of world-renowned artists like El Anatsui, Tara Donovan, and many others.

Archives Screen Shot (image courtesy of Rice Gallery)

The app is a great resource for viewers around the world who don’t otherwise have access to the space in Houston, TX. It allows one to scroll through high-resolution photo galleries and videos covering the installation process, artist interviews, and intimate details of the final exhibition. The content is organized either chronologically or by artist, so it is easy to hone in on your favorites.

Photo Gallery Screen Shot (image courtesy of Rice Gallery)

You can find out more information about this app by visiting the Rice Gallery website or by checking it out on iTunes. The kicker is that it is free, so there’s really no excuse to pass it up!

Follow Up: Yasuaki Onishi at Rice Gallery

"Reverse of Volume" RG, 2012; Commission, Rice University Art Gallery, Houston, Texas; Photo: Nash Baker

“Reverse of Volume” RG, 2012; Commission, Rice University Art Gallery, Houston, Texas; Photo: Nash Baker

A while back, I wrote about Yasuaki Onishi‘s upcoming “Reverse of Volume” installation at Rice Gallery in Houston. Having attended the opening, I had the pleasure of speaking both with Onishi as well as the curator who were both thrilled at the final product. As with most installation work, this piece was a site specific work that took advantage of the high ceilings – thus offering the first opportunity for the viewer to step underneath the work to experience the piece from below. Suffice it to say that the show has generated a great deal of hype around town. Here are some images and a short video documenting the installation at Rice Gallery. Be sure to go and check it out in person before it comes down on the 24th of June.

Yasuaki Onishi: reverse of volume (RG) from Mark & Angela Walley on Vimeo.

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Invoking Pygmalion – Yasuaki Onishi “Reverse Volume” Installations

Reverse of Volume, 2009; 593 x 360 x 2000 cm; Glue, plastic sheet; Aomori Contemporary Art Centre, Aomori, Japan

Of the existing accounts of Yasuaki Onishi‘s portfolio, few have investigated his work beyond commending the artists’ ability to manipulate space. However, there is a strong link which runs throughout his entire body of work – namely the interaction between the ideas and implications surrounding kinetics.

Formally, Onishi’s work not only manipulates, but depends on movement in order to convey the meaning behind each piece. In the two-dimensional realm, his long-exposure photography in his Shaved & Rolled series softens otherwise violent and immediate jolts of fire.  Similarly in his sculptural installations, Onishi’s works rise and fall – respiring as if to possess their own sentience.

Yet while elements of movement are prominent throughout his portfolio, the most striking example of Onishi’s interest in motion lies in his Reverse Volume series. In relying solely on plastic sheeting, string, and black glue, the artist crafts monumental installations of imposing presence from materials which lack any substantial mass of their own. Although appearing firm, the mountainous incarnations gently bulge, crumple, and collapse in the natural drafts within the exhibition space. Thus breaking from the use of fans in his other works, the oscillation in Reverse Volume is calculated but not provoked.

Reverse of Volume, 2009; 593 x 360 x 2000 cm; Glue, plastic sheet; Aomori Contemporary Art Centre, Aomori, Japan

As a viewer, one is left to ponder Onishi’s paradox of mass and anti-mass.  How does he reconcile the tacit respiration and ghost-like drifting of his installation? What does it mean to allow the slightest breeze to coerce a formation reminiscent of looming mountainscapes? A possible reading hinges on interpreting the piece as a fundamentally kinetic presence.  Because of the choice in materials, the installation can not physically (or conceivably) remain static. Rather, it is manipulated by the surrounding atmosphere, just as a seaside cliff crumbles into the assailing waves below. In creating such formidable structures from delicate materials, the artist suggests that there is no such thing as the immovable. The precarious and impressionable existence of Onishi’s installation in the exhibition space characterizes our world as a whole. Playing on the inherently ephemeral nature of installation art, Reverse Volume symbolizes inevitable change in our environment. It reminds us that what we hold as permanent amounts to nothing more than a cursory moment between growth and siege – a humbling notion still fresh in the minds of his audience following the natural disaster last year in Fukushima Prefecture.

            If you are interested (and reasonably local), his work will open to the public on the 13th of April in the Rice University Installation Gallery in Houston and will be up until the 24th of June. Onishi will give a gallery talk at 6:00P on opening night with a volley at noon on the 14th. Admission is free so there’s no reason to miss out. Also, check out the gallery below for some high resolution images courtesy of the curator.

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