Installation view of “Sculpture by Other means” showing in the foreground MASAYA CHIBA’s Linear Notes, 2011, oil on canvas, 67 × 35 cm. Courtesy One and J. Gallery, Seoul.

TEPPEI KANEUJI, Hakuchizu, 2012, mixed-media, installed at One and J. Gallery, Seoul, 2012. Courtesy One and J. Gallery.

KOKI TANAKA, Everything is Everything, 2006, eight-channel video installation at One and J. Gallery, Seoul, 2012. Courtesy One and J. Gallery.

YUKI KIMURA, Post-disembodiment (grain), 2006, wood, plexiglas, and lambda prints mounted on wood, installed at One and J. Gallery, Seoul, 2012. Courtesy One and J. Gallery.

Sculpture by Other Means

One and J. Gallery
Korea, South Japan

This group exhibition, curated by Gabriel Ritter and featuring the artists Koki Tanaka, Masaya Chiba, Teppei Kaneuji and Yuki Kimura, examined “the ways in which a sculptural practice might be realized through various other mediums—whether it be painting, collage, photography, or video.” Building an aesthetic conversation around the boundaries of sculpture seemed applicable to any group of contemporary artworks, and I could not help wondering, “why these four artists?” Though “Sculpture By Other Means” did present an opportunity to contemplate the notion of sculpture as a medium, the exhibition was most successful in encouraging a reexamination and rediscovery of practices of four young Japanese artists.

On the ground floor were five paintings by Chiba. He paints a montage of ordinary objects such as a cantaloupe, bike, turtle, t-shirt, spoons, plants, or blocks of wood into surreal tableaus. Depictions of formless white figurines that the artist sculpted out of papier-mâché make repeated, and rather mysterious appearances throughout the works. In Chiba’s world, inanimate objects are somehow animated: a sketch of two women chatting is imposed upon a meticulously rendered still-life in Gossip (2012), and an irregular slice cut out of a whole cantaloupe in Linear Notes (2011) leaves the fruit with an odd toothless grin. In the same room were Kaneuji’s two-dimensional collages from the “Games, Dance and the Constructions” series (2011-2012), his sculptures from the “White Discharge series (2009-2012) and Hakuchizu (2012). The vibrant and colorful stacked ready-mades of Kaneuji’s sculptures were a stark contrast to the subdued palette of Chiba’s paintings. Covered in white resin or powder, the objects in Kaneuji’s sculptures seemed almost fossilized.

Upstairs, Tanaka’s eight-channel video installation Everything is Everything (2006) shows unidentifiable figures stacking toilet paper, throwing mattresses, spanking kettles, lifting tables, and so on, intermittently interrupted by video stills of food. Humorous and playful (though at the expense of the manipulated objects), Tanaka offers a second look at the relationship between actions and objects, dismissing our preconceived boundaries between sculpture, video and even performance.

Also on the second floor, the “Post-disembodiment” series (2006) by Yuki Kimura presented an elegant counterpoint to Tanaka’s cacophonous installation. In Post-disembodiment (grain), a door-like shape has been excised from the wood-mounted, plexiglass-encased photograph of weathered patio slats. Nearby, the various layers of the excised photographic image, including the wooden base, the image itself and the plexiglass cover, have been broken down and are presented on the floor side by side. Each layer is aptly named; for example, the wood cutout is titled alter ego (door) and the plexiglass shadow (door). By doing so, Kimura’s work blurs the line between sculpture and photography, and challenges traditional notions of what photography is meant to be.

The aesthetic dialogue proposed by “Sculpture By Other Means” was ambitious, and in the hands of Ritter could have been successful as a large-scale sprawling exhibition spanning continents and decades. Yet with just four artists, the exhibition was an interesting prelude of what could be. Though the context fell short as a rigorous investigation of sculpture as a medium in contemporary art, it built curiosity and anticipation for these four artists who are somewhat new to the Korean public. And in an environment where there is still a lack of galleries dedicated to taking on the task of presenting emerging artists in a thoughtful way, “Sculpture By Other Means” was an inspiring undertaking by One and J. Gallery and a positive reminder that galleries play a crucial role in expanding the discourse and conception of contemporary art.