August 29, 2007

PRESS RELEASE: land[e]scape

Curated by Eric C. Shiner

Shingo Francis, Kenji Hirata, Shigeno Ichimura, Futoshi Miyagi,
Keiko Miyamori, Yoshiaki Mochizuki, Juri Morioka,
Tadashi Moriyama,Manika Nagare, NATSU, Hiroko Ohno,
Mizue Sawano, Eiji Sumi, Aki Yamamoto

September 13 – October 3, 2007
Opening Reception: Thursday, September 13, 6-8 pm


Onishi Gallery is proud to present land[e]scape featuring 14 Contemporary Japanese artists. Japanese artists have turned to their natural and manmade environments for inspiration for countless centuries, and in so doing, have made landscape painting and photography a constant in Japanese art production. Many have studied the traditional techniques of painting landscapes in ink or in vibrant colors, replicating—yet ever furthering the concepts of—those artists that came before them. However, many contemporary artists have made a conscious decision to move away from traditional tropes in favor of the radically fresh and intellectually stimulating project of deconstructing the notion of landscape portraiture altogether. They thus create a new vision of their surrounding environs, challenging the viewer to imagine alternate universes where geography, line and form meld into new aesthetic territory. Theirs is a landscape portraiture that escapes tradition and blazes new trails into the realms of fantasy and theory. The artists included here are academic in their approach to their environments, and their work reflects their experimentations with vision and positions vis a vis the physical world.

Some of the artists represented in land[e]scape use the traditional medium of paint to realize their new ideas on landscape. Shingo Francis is interested in the concept of the horizon in his work, and he boils it down to simple lines in his signature use of blue, or explodes it in bright bursts of color in a series of gouache on paper works, one of which is included here. Kenji Hirata has developed his own vocabulary on the topic of terrain using curving forms painted in brightly hued colors; his landscapes become dream-like zones influenced by video games and Op Art in equal sway. Shigeno Ichimura textures his canvases with heavy dobs of silver paint, or in his contribution here, actually fixes handmade tin spheres to the picture surface, creating a whimsical minefield of metallic forms. Yoshiaki Mochizuki analyzes space in relation to the viewer’s movement by laying down gold leaf on board, then burnishing the surface with hundreds of lines to give the work a faceted, reflective sheen. Juri Morioka is an intuitive colorist of exceptional skill, and she uses a most vivid palette to create abstract urban settings that reference places she has visited, or fantasy realms that she hopes to encounter. Tadashi Moriyama creates hyper-populated landscapes of the future with his landscape watercolors and animations of suburban enclaves sprouting hundreds of houses built directly next to one another that reference the claustrophobic living conditions of Japan or any large urban area in the world. Manika Nagare balances atop the line between abstraction and figuration in her colorful landscapes of the imagination which often take her to places that can never exist in real life. Hiroko Ohno was trained as a traditional painter in the Japanese style, but her new works conflate the ideas of tradition in favor of powerful contemporary images of places she has visited or, as in the screen displayed here, of the cosmos beyond. Finally, Mizue Sawano often paints powerful portraits of cherry trees, a constant presence on the Japanese landscape, but her painterly hand gives her trees an ephemeral presence that makes them appear ready to fade away at any time.

Other artists in the show use drawing, sculpture or photography to build their conceptual worlds. Futoshi Miyagi, a photographer from Okinawa, often asks strangers for assistance in developing his works, as seen here in a series of photographs he took in an attempt to recreate his unknown collaborators’ most memorable “scape.” Sculptor Keiko Miyamori casts actual tree root systems in large resin blocks measuring 7 feet square; here she shows three small studies for these mammoth landscapes frozen in time. NATSU makes seductively enchanting sculptures out of multi-colored beads in the form of conceptual chandeliers that become microcosms of the world; here her work houses the tree of life enshrined within an orb made of clear beads. Eiji Sumi draws incredibly complex scenes of actual places he has visited in cities around the world, including New York and Amsterdam, in one long connected line, an effect that gives the images a tension-ridden feeling of instability in excess. Aki Yamamoto uses felt to craft soft-sculptures in bright colors that, once installed, become floating clouds, organic forms or, as she calls them, little monsters that populate the gallery space.

No matter their medium, the artists included in land[e]scape are all dedicated to the idea of moving the concept of landscape portraiture to a theoretical plain. Through deconstructing, reforming and destabilizing the ground upon which they stand, they create a new vocabulary, and indeed a new vision, on space and the ways we inhabit it.

This exhibition is supported by Consulate General of Japan in New York.

For more information, please visit our website at or contact Nana Onishi at or at 212.695.8035.

Onishi Gallery
521 W 26th Street
New York, NY 10001
T. 212.695.8035
F. 212.695.8036
Gallery hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 11:00 am to 6:00 pm

NATSUは世界の縮図となるコンセプチュアルなシャンデリアの形をした、魅惑的でうっとりするようなスカルプチャーを色とりどりのビーズで作る。本展の彼女の作品は透明なビーズで出来た球体の中に祭られた生命の樹を内蔵する。- Eric C. Shiner

August 26, 2007

ART REVIEW: The New York Times

The New York Times
ART REVIEW: From Young Storytellers, a Playful Tone
Published: August 26, 2007, Sunday

What joy there is in this year’s “Aljira Emerge” show in Newark, the eighth installment of the gallery’s annual professional development program for young and emerging artists, mainly from the metropolitan region. It is not the strongest exhibition in recent years, but it is the most delightful visually.

For the first time we have none of the usual moralizing, even in the emphatic treatment of social and political issues that occurs here and there throughout the show. The works by 20 artists, selected by Rocio Aranda-Alvarado, the curator at the Jersey City Museum, is remarkable for its lightness and humor.

The playful tone is set in the entry area with Julie Peppito’s mixed-media sculptures hanging from the ceiling. They are giant, colorful bugs made out of a conglomerate of melted plastic toys and found objects. One is pink-toned, another a bright orange; viewed in passing, they resemble frightening prehistoric creatures.

Next comes a video by Patrick Grenier, titled “The Whitney Museum Searching Cultural Desert for Artists” (2007). Showing a remote-control vehicle navigating desert terrain, it is a metaphor for the periodic hunt by curators for artists to participate in the Whitney Biennial survey of young talent. For artists, it is often a nerve-racking time, representing an opportunity to be recognized, but also to be rejected.

From Mr. Grenier’s video, as well as from other works here, one can draw conclusions as to the attitudes of young artists toward big museums, the art market and the media. They feel excluded, shut out of the scene. The Emerge program provides these artists with a temporary platform; what they make of it is up to them.

Video art is in abundance, though the only thing in that medium as compelling as Mr. Grenier’s work is a piece by Andrew Demirjian. It consists of a pair of video screens, strapped to the backs of car seats, showing a man and a woman having a conversation in a car. Their talk is punctuated with interior monologues, the man and the woman reflecting on each other and on the conversation. It is an imaginative take on the tensions and relations between the sexes.

Many striking works of sculpture are also on display. An artist known as Natsu has built a giant, glistening egg out of plastic beads, which makes a powerful first impression. Hanging in the middle of the exhibition, it inspires awe at its beauty and admiration for the hours of labor that went into its construction.

I have remarked before that a streak of craft is running through contemporary art these days, with many artists making objects by hand using techniques like model-making, knitting and ceramics. It is plainly apparent in this show. In addition to Natsu and Ms. Peppito, there is also Mike Womack, who has constructed a cinder block out of bright orange Cheetos. It is a tongue-in-cheek gesture, but the block is so perfectly made that you can’t help but admire the artist’s oddball brilliance.

Jerry Gant’s sculptures, though plainly constructed, inspire a similar reaction. Using found wood, metal and wire, the artist makes imitation “ghetto blasters,” which he hangs on the wall in groups. The artist has hit upon a winning formula, for the crude materials nicely suggest urbanity and the raw, explosive energy of the music.

Other works are more contemplative, sometimes inviting associations with the trend of narrative and fantasy in contemporary art. I would put videos by Priyanka Dasgupta, Carol Pereira and Elisabeth Smolarz in that category, along with paintings, photographs and drawings by Jenny Polak, Nicole Awai, Jayson Keeling and Alisoun Meehan. They all tell a story.

Ms. Polak’s work, in the grandeur of its conception and its intelligent execution, stands at the pinnacle of the group. She tackles the issue of immigration, making maps and paintings of worksites in the New York City area where illegal immigrants have been found. One cannot help being moved by the plight of these people.

This exhibition is larger than in previous years; Aljira has recently renovated, expanding the galleries into an area previously used for offices. This modest, unadorned institution is quietly growing into a contemporary art powerhouse.

“Aljira Emerge 8,” through Sept. 29, at Aljira, a Center for Contemporary Art, 591 Broad Street, Newark.
Information: (973) 622-1600 or

多くの特筆すべき彫刻(スカルプチャー)作品も展示されている。Natsuとし て知られているアーティストはプラスチックビーズで巨大なキラキラと輝く卵 を 作り上げた。それは強烈な第一印象を与える。展覧会の真ん中に吊り下げ られ たその作品は、その美しさへの畏敬の念、そしてこの創生に注入された 多大な労働時間に対する敬服の念を抱かせる。

私は以前、近年の現代美術に多くのアーティストが模型製作、編み物や陶器 な どの技術を用い手で物体を作るという工芸の傾向が出てきていると述べた こと がある。それはこの展示で明らかに現れている。NatsuやMs. Peppitoに 加え Mike Womackもそうでる。
ーThe New York Times

August 15, 2007

GROUP EXHIBITION: land[e]scape

September 13 - October 3, 2007
Reception: Thursday, September 13, 6 - 8 pm

Curator: Eric C. Shiner

Onishi Gallery
521 West 26th Street, New York, NY 10001
tel: 212-695-8035

Gallery Hours: Tuesday - Saturday 11am - 6pm

2007年9月13日 - 10月3日
レセプション:9月13日(木)18 - 20時

キュレーター: エリック シャイナー

Onishi Gallery
521 West 26th Street, New York, NY 10001
tel: 212-695-8035

Gallery Hours: Tuesday - Saturday 11am - 6pm

August 07, 2007

ART REVIEW: The Star-Ledger

The Star-Ledge
ART REVIEW: At Aljira, reasons to be playful
Published:Sunday, July 29, 2007

Anybody who's seen the shows at the Jersey City Museum knows curator Rocio Aranda-Alvarado likes to assemble art exhibits with a puckish sense of humor. But when Aranda-Alvarado was asked to guest curate the "Emerge 8" exhibit at Aljira in Newark, a show done each year for the alternative gallery's professional development seminar, we really had no reason to think it, too, would be a corker.

But it is. There's a concrete block painted a dark, royal blue, for example, and one right next to it made entirely of Cheetos, a brighter orange than any traffic cone, by Mike Womack (the doodles are held together with clear resin -- makes them more appetizing, too). In the front window of the gallery, artist Julie Peppito has constructed four different dragonflies out of little boys' toys, plastic kittens, bowling trophy figures, Xmas ornaments, snow globes, etc. Suzanne Broughel has built a brick wall out of white bars of soap punctuated by a hole in the middle made out of ovoid bars of black soap, making you think of how the white wall would collapse if the black bricks were removed; all the soap, she explains, was bought from black-owned businesses located right around the Aljira storefront.

Okay, if that's not funny enough, check out Patrick Grenier's "The Whitney Museum Searching Cultural Desert for Artists," a video mounted in a frame that looks like the slanted rhomboidal window at the center of Marcel Breuer's museum façade. In the video, you see a boxy version of Breuer's cantilevered museum design mounted on the wheels of a remote-controlled electric car moving through a landscape, looking remarkably like the weird boxy landship driven by the Sand People in the first "Star Wars" movie (it is even shot silhouetted against a brilliant orange sunset, as was the landship when R2-D2 was first carried into it). Which would make the Whitney museum folks equivalent to the Sand People, combing the wastelands for fragments of techno-junk they can then buff up and resell for a profit, beachcombers, really. ...

"It's true that most of these artists don't take themselves or their work too seriously, so they can be playful," Aranda-Alvarado says. "This is the first time I've curated a show of artists whom I did not choose myself, with a predetermined theme. So I went to each one and asked them to give me what they thought was their best work -- and I think that's what makes the show work. It wasn't entirely me fitting them into some concept, but each artist getting enthusiastic about choosing the piece that would satisfy me, too."

All 20 artists enrolled in the Emerge 8 program were taught useful skills, like how to present work to a gallery, how to work out a meaningful financial profile, and how to generate publicity about their work. They range in age from the early 20s to some in their 40s and 50s ("emerging artist" is a term usually applied to recent art school grads, but the art world often seems more and more to be filled with older artists who are finding an audience in their middle years or later, and Aljira's Emerge is intended to serve all ages). This exhibition is the ultimate reward for taking part.

But it has been striking to see the remarkable range and extraordinary talent of so many artists in this particular program over the past few years, whether it's because Emerge has become better known or just because the talent pool of visual artists is so much deeper than we ever imagine. And this show is no exception.

Elisabeth Smolarz's "Freund Hein," a projection of six simultaneous videos in two rows, showing people in a full-body shot standing straight then suddenly performing their version of dying. (Some cough and then slump to the ground, others carefully sit and lie down -- a number of the men, if they're young enough, take a cue from boyhood and pretend to be shot, à la Robert Longo's famous charcoal "Falling Yuppies.") Smolarz shot the videos with volunteers when she was working as an artist in residence at the Rotunda Gallery in Brooklyn.

Even when the art isn't LOL, it has a cheeky insouciance.

Jenny Polak has pinpointed on a digital map of the U.S. all the sites in the last year where the Immigration Service has conducted raids, giving the number of illegals arrested and deported and the name of the business that employed them. On the wall above the computer she hangs small ovals painted a teal blue (a color often used in public service signage in the 1950s-'60s) on which she has sketched the various on-site jobs that the illegals were doing--like "Janitorial," "Security Guard," "Oil Refinery." Her title is "Return to Sender: Raided Worksites, 2006-7."

And again, the quality of the craftsmanship is amazing, like Natsu's "Mushiki Whale-Cosmic Egg," a glittery construction made of brass wire and plastic beads as big as a motorbike that is suspended from the ceiling in the center of the gallery. The most jaw-dropping is Alisoun Meehan's nine-foot-long pastel of a Chinese restaurant window, called "Open Neon" (2006). Not photo-realist, exactly, but Meehan is a poet with orange and red, and the whole thing is really a reflection in a sheet of safety glass, so it is maddeningly subtle to read --but you have to see it in person to really get it.

Maybe it's not funny, but it will make you happy for a while.

Emerge 8
Where: Aljira, a Center for Contemporary Art, 591 Broad St., NewarkWhen: Through Sept. 29. Noon-6 p.m. Wednesdays-Fridays; 11 a.m.-4 p.m. SaturdaysHow much: A donation of $5 is suggested. Call (973) 622-1600 or contact