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Hiro Sakaguchi is a young Japanese artist who earned his MFA from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.  He’s shown his work around Pennsylvania, Japan, and is now branching out to other cities as well including our Baltimore.  His website expresses his interest “in making an object, which contains a fictional realm that is relevant to [his] experience as an artist and an individual in this global society.” As a painter, he creates imaginary worlds addressing contemporary issues related to current events and his hybrid identity as an artist of ethnic color.  His work features  confusion of scale while masterfully handling a light hearted aesthetic.

Microcosm had the pleasure of meeting him at the Maryland Art Place’s Julio Fine Arts Gallery  on the opening night of “Fantastical Imaginings” show. While Ms. J. Susan Isaacs did a wonderful job introducing all the artists featured in the group exhibit, Hiro really came alive in his few minutes in the spotlight.  He has a very engaging speak, largely utilizing theatrical hand gestures, and attentiveness.  What’s best is that the ideas he portrays and speaks of through and by his work is the same as the way he speaks aloud conversationally.  There is no hiding of his being of foreign birth, or at least having lived in a foreign place for a significant portion of his life.  Yet there is a familiarity to it all that makes his foreignness nothing like alienness.  It is all remarkably one and parallel with his artwork.

Hiro features two of his works at the group show, one of them being Chrysanthemum delivery (2009), a graphite and watercolor piece on paper, the other, Over Clouds (2007), a synthetic polymer paint, colored pencil and ink piece on canvas.  Talking to Hiro, it becomes clear that there is a very fluid perception of sense locale and the liberation it allows any given identity.  Over Clouds shows clouds with random variables of objects, persons and architectural details that gives points of reminisce.  As a whole, it almost looks like a print on a child’s pajamas, in that it exudes comfort, buoyancy, airiness, and its manner of rendering the images.  Chrysanthemum’s Delivery, on the other hand, is more objective in its composition with a clear vehicle with a rider, architecture, and landscape.  The geography and all the rest are fantastical as they are drawn out from his memories.  In both images, airplanes and structures resembling airplanes’ curves are features.  Having been in many different places just for his artistic study and profession alone, Hiro’s found himself to be very comfortable in airplanes.

There is something nearly apolitical about the atmosphere that Hiro finds very compelling and useful.  He says that while the airplane makes travel easy, the process of flying in an airplane with  others is also a very democratic experience.  “No matter who you are, your life is temporarily suspended in the sky.  Rich or poor, tall or short, dark skin or light skin, sick of healthy, man or woman, …  When you are on the land, you are too close to whatever your situation.  It is hard to be objective when you are too close to something.  Territorial qualms seem as silly when you are in the air.”  Hiro shares, in the purest way.  There are elements of Japan, elements of Philadelphia in these pieces and throughout his other works, but overall the works are not marked by a certain politick or geography.  There are recollections of experiences in air, with a blurred memory of ground whence the airplane took off of.

originally written by Ellice Park, March 2009, transcribed by Jenny Robinson February 2010

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The current ASA exhibition in Brown’s Rosenberg gallery not only discusses the literal and psychological hunger artists have towards their art, it displays a varied spectrum of mediums and subject matter while at the same time correlating to the subject of Asia.  There are examples of work made in fiber, garment design, illustration, painting, paper-cut, drawing, and silkscreen, of which I will only describe a few.

Son Young Kwon’s large silkscreen stretched on panels entitled Americanize, speaks of the spread of American consumer culture onto Eastern culture through mass media, fast food, and electronics with logos of Disney, McDonald’s and Apple.  The construction of the prints stretched on screens that are hinged together are reminiscent the display used with Asian brush painting.  Thus in a sense the American images are replacing the traditional images and practices of the past.

On the flip side, aspects of Asian consumer products are also shown in Jennifer Tam’s felted sculptures of two white dogs barking at one another, entitled Mitsy and Tina Have a Discussion.  The piece is facetious in the manner that the two small, white dogs appear to be fiercely barking at one another with angrily contorted expressions. Yet they both appear to be very pristine well kept dogs in the softness of the white fur that is rendered and the pink ribbons on their ears.  It appears to have an aspect of the cutesy quality of Asian consumer products, which transform functional utilitarian objects such as pencils and rulers into cartoonish and frilly objects with tassels.

Further into dark humor, Max Lewis displays a series ten illustrative ink and gold leaf drawings in a narrative of the gradual fall of a golden-hearted young boy.  The series is entitled The Dark Forest.  The boy has his heart ripped out, and his tempted by a devil, which consumes his soul.  This series displays a stylistic look perhaps reminiscent of Japanese manga comics.

Another piece discusses the blending of two cultures, specifically Korea and Japan through the ethnicity in the garment piece by Yeji Byun entitled When Shibori meets Hanbok.  The garment displays a layered floor length skirt and jacket with long sleeves that is cut short at the torso and tied in the front, the style of the Korean traditional hanbok.  However, the fabric is dyed in the Japanese practice of Shibori.  The piece may represent a biracial lineage, the cultural influence of Japan when during their occupation in Korea, or simply a blending of the two cultures.

Overall the current ASA exhibition was successful in the sense that it displayed a variety of mediums and aspects of Asian culture.   It is highly recommended that one should visit the show before it is taken down on February 8th.

Jenny Robinson 2010

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We’re Artists meeting and talking with other Artists. Our interest is the Asian diaspora, and its farflung influences–and on the other hand, how Asian Culture and Arts have been influenced by the inter-culturalistic points its met in its travels. Tune in on Sundays for Microcosm’s regular goodness, and throughout the week for special surprises.
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