It’s been 4 years since I showed a set of new works. Finally I will have a solo show with new works this fall. The show opens on 10/10/13 at Lori Bookstein Fine Art in NYC. So far I’m planing to have 3 to 5 large pieces and probably around 4 midsize to smaller ones. And possibly some small drawings as well…
Pieces are still in progress… I still can’t see how the pieces fit in the space yet… But here is a floor plan of the space.
Here is a link to an interview with the lab magazine. It went really well. Please check it out!
This show is organized by Aureus Contemporary. Participating artists are Alejandro Diaz-Ayala, Jeremy Dean, Jeff Depner, Pauline Galiana, Hiroyuki Hamada, Karim Hamid, William P Immer, Michael Mapes, Claire Shegog and Yi-Hsin Tzeng.
You can learn more about the show at the site.
Come say hi! We’ll have an opening on April 4th 7-10pm.
4 april to 14 april 2013
opening night: 4 APRIL 7-10pm
operating 11 – 6pm
(closed on Monday)
Following is a text from an event Pechakucha Night Hamptons Vol. 1 at Parrish Art Museum on Thursday, September 20, 2012.
Thank you for inviting me today. I would like to talk about making sculptures. The first step is to come up with the basic idea for it. This is a tricky process because I am interested in an experience without words, stories or symbols. What I am interested in is to make you feel like you belong to the vast universe that is within the tiny cells we are made of reaching out to the edge of the space out there. It can be a scary feeling. You are all alone just floating in the unknown vastness. You might be stuck with something you don’t understand. Or you might feel like you are nothing. You might be lonely and afraid. But I believe good art can let you feel the vastness and the mystery without the fear. It welcomes you with open arms. And remind you that you belong to that reality. It can be a moment when you look at a painting you love. Or it can last for a whole song when you listen to a great song. Or it can last for a whole chapter of a book. What it does is that it can become a bridge between that part of you and you buried in our everyday life. It gives us the courage to go on and it gives us the courage to embrace the unknown with curiosity and excitement.
Making process is a weird thing. You open yourself in certain ways at the same time you let go of other things. It’s not like solving a math problem where you add a fixed number to a fixed number for instance. Most of the time you can’t even see all the numbers you are adding. And the missing numbers can only be seen with your heart and soul. For an average man in mid 40s, jaded, cynical and disillusioned, it is not easy. As soon as I think I caught something, it’s gone. It’s like building something with my eyes closed. The things I can count on the most in this complicated process are persistence and time. Good work requires breaking rules that I have cultivated over the years. It requires additional trials and errors that allow me to see the new possibilities. I have to be patient in sticking to the goal.
The process is very slow and it’s done with my tiny brain with yet smaller art window looking out where the work sits. I go around the work so many times trying to look through the window mostly failing to see what’s out there. But eventually I succeed in mapping the area. I slowly build the work. I try to feel my way through every inch of the surface. In fact, it’s much less than an inch. Sometimes a tiny dot might make a big difference, like a tiny sparkle in somebody’s eye that can make him come alive. But it gets complicated when the work doesn’t even have an eye or a face. It’s a very time consuming process. But when the work is done. It’s very obvious. I am at a special place only with my work and myself. Nothing else matters and I am completely at peace, or completely excited.
So how do I go about it? My approach is to start from drawings. That’s my map to guide me to where I will be struggling. The lines, subtle shades of tones, shapes, these things can imply the vast process that I will be going through. I keep my sketchbook with me all the time. I try to brain storm on papers and come up with recurring shapes that literally ask me to work on as it starts to appear as a three dimensional piece in my imagination. Or sometime it just pops right on the page and I’m certain that I have to work on it.
I started out as a painter so building structures can be rather crude with lots of trials and errors. I mostly use materials you can find at a hardware store: Wood, insulation foam, burlap, plaster, roofing tar, spray paint, and so on. And using newer, more exotic materials has been an interesting challenge today.
The surface treatment brings up the characters of the piece, It defines the shape, it gives a static object movements, rhythm, surprises, and visual narratives. Or it can even tell you an imaginary history of a catastrophic event, reconciliation, or just endless calmness and richness of unbroken cycle of nature. I have fun going along with the flow. I take chances. I try to see things I didn’t see before. The result, when it works, always surprises me with a fresh presence of its own.
Following images were shown during the talk–20 images, each shown for 20 seconds.
Pechakucha Night Hamptons Vol. 1 Thursday, September 20, 2012 – 6:00pm to 9:00pm
Last year I was interviewed by January Biannual: A beautiful crowd-funded publication with no advertisements. I enjoyed answering the questions very much.
Here is how they describe themselves:
“JANUARYbiannual is a publication with small dreams. We are inspired to touch just a few, but in a way that is lasting and profound.
JANUARYbiannual is fascinated by substance, by depth, by fortitude, and by integrity.
It is our humble ambition to slow things down, for just a little while”.
I think that’s wonderful. Please check out the publication.
Last week I was helping a painter friend, Connie Fox, document her work for a magazine article. It’s always nice to feel a connection through what artists do in our studios. Quite often, the generation gap, cultural gap, or anything that usually could be in between two people just vanishes when we talk about art. Since I wrote a bit last week about what I want my work to do, I was curious what she’d say about the artist’s contribution. She’s survived as an artist much longer than I have. In fact she turns 88 this year. And she is still a very active painter.
I heard what she said and I decided to record it so that I could remember. Here is what I recorded:
“The artist is involved with the spirit of the human being. And it’s very necessary to have that part of human life be in existence in any society to help keep it on the track so it’s not all matter of who wins, who loses, who makes the most profit, who comes out on top or who has the most power”.
I told her that that’s pretty much what I wrote last week. We laughed. I felt good sharing a moment with her standing on the same ground, believing what we do. Very special moment actually.
Then, of course, it made me think if we’ve done any good… She was born in the 1920s. She’s seen the whole growth of corporate domination and the expansion of western neo-colonialism. And in our cultural sphere, she’s seen the whole process of the mystery of our being and our sacred relationship to the universe being replaced with the substanceless marketing ploy of mystique which ultimately serves the status quo of our time: commercialism, militarism, alienation and apathy. Where are we going? As artists, and as a species?
But seeing 87 year old Connie proclaiming her vision was more than enough to make all those concerns irrelevant for the moment. I should also mention that her husband, Bill King, is also an artist–a wonderful sculptor, still very active. He is also turning 88 this year. I should write about them sometime. I sometimes think of them with a sense of awe and reverence. They are the living proof of art providing life with beauty and dignity.
A few months ago a friend of mine called to tell me that he saw art works at an art fair that could only be described as copies of my work. I saw the photos and to my surprise, the artist used many vocabularies I use–not just one, two or three–and with unmistakable resemblance, and the result should be described as nothing short of genuine ripoff. I was fascinated as to why anyone would do such a thing. What is the point of putting that much effort in repeating what someone else already has done when we have a rich abundant source of awe and amazement buried in our psyche waiting to be shared and added to our collective asset of art. Then it took me about 3 seconds to realize that this person was probably hoping to capitalize on my efforts. Knowing how hard that would be myself, I told myself “well good luck with that lol”. My friend kindly wrote to the artist and to his gallery pointing out what was going on. He received a reply from the artist basically saying that he will stay away from pursuing those works.
I was not going to make the incident public but I realized that it is important that we be open about problems in art communities so that we are given opportunities to contemplate and self-regulate ourselves for smoother and more productive interactions.
Art making, whether it’s literature, music, visual art or any other form, to me, is one of the most important humanistic attempts to reconcile the gap between our secular, practical self and that being which nature endowed as a powerful, mysterious existence as big and complex as nature itself. I take it seriously although with a great amount of playfulness and freedom.
The art world or art community has a peculiar position in today’s societies. Although some artists or art works function with significant weight in corporate dominated societies, most of us–artists and art lovers–do not participate with much power. The art market is not regulated with the same standards based on rule of law as other fields would be. The infamous financial system recklessly putting forth its self-serving agendas to our political system, judicial system, and economic system seems rather orderly when you look at how selected art works are priced to function as something which they were never meant for or how big art institutions collude with financial powers to set agendas regardless of intrinsic values of art they show, often involving financial gains of parties involved. And beyond all the fanciness and the ugliness, there are countless artists, art dealers, curators and all the people who love art trying to make sense out of our daily struggles often encountering shadiness which you are less likely to face in other fields.
The reason why I’m talking about our predicament is not to despair or even to suggest the need for governmental regulations. We are outsiders. But with the power. We are connected to the power to guide our future based on our intrinsic values deriving from the mystery of nature. I hear people laughing. I hear people renouncing the cruelty of the society. But there is no way around the fact that we are special with the power. Let’s respect that fact. And let’s be respectful to each other. And when we share, do share with courtesy and intention to contribute to our collective asset of art. We are here to ground humanity to the depth and richness of the universe which only our hearts can touch.
Last year I was interviewed by a German company Liganova which is starting an art collection. They have published a couple of publications based on the interview: One for their newsletter and one for their newly launched Ligastudios.
Here is the original interview unedited with extra pictures.
Photo by Richard Foulser
– tell us about your life in Japan
I always liked making things when I was a kid. But I didn’t grow up in a family where that sort of stuff can be your job. My dad worked in Tokyo and commuted from our suberban house 1 1/2 hours away. I grew up to be a typical teenager: angry, feeling alienated for mostly immature reasons. Then my family had to move to the US for my dad’s job (I was 18 then). I got to be a minority in the US (we moved to a little town Wheeling, West Virginia) and I had to struggle to communicate . It was traumatic but also pretty funny if I look back now… I think every teenager should go though that. I think that set me up for pursuing art. I learned some English and I decided to go to a local community college where I met a teacher who showed me what you can do with art. He showed me that putting together lines, colors and etc. on a piece of paper can be like making music or writing stories. I was very naive, ha ha. And he was very good. I was good with my hands but I never knew how to put things together to make it really speak; I never knew that you could put words in between the lines and make it all deep and profound visually, you know? And I totally got hooked. After that I was basically stuck in studio drawing, painting and etc…
Why New York? What did you think New York would give you that Japan didn’t at that time?
I moved around quite a bit before I came to the NY area. In the US, there is this great thing called “artist residency”. You tell them that you are an artist and if they like what you do, they’d let you stay and give you a studio. Some places even pay you to be there. I even met my wife at one of those places. So, after I got my MFA, I was basically half homeless moving around those places. Can’t imagine how I did it now but I didn’t really care much except for what was going on in my studio (my wife would tell you that I still don’t ha ha). And after a while, I wanted to really show my work. And naturally NYC was the place to go. Back then (It was around 1997 or so) and probably now too, the numbers of venues you can show and artists population in NYC area were just staggering compared to other places. If you go to one of those residencies, you’d be amazed to see how many of the artists you meet would be from NYC. But today I wouldn’t care too much about where I work. The work comes first definitely.
How did the NY art scene meet a young Hiroyuki?
– were you already having pieces as you came to NYC (you were 18, right?)
Coming to NYC, well, actually it wasn’t NYC. After a couple of weeks looking for a cheap place which doesn’t exist in NYC, I settled with a good sized space across the river in NJ. It was one of the sweat shop buildings in a big Cuban community. So it wasn’t really NJ either; it was Cuba. It can be seedy but it was mostly mellow and warm. I heard more Spanish than English. I remember the first taste of chicaron (what a concept, deep frying a chunky pork belly) and good cuban coffee. Have you had Cuban sandwich? The crispy bread outside and exquisite mixture of melting cheese, rich fat pork and the great accent with the pickles? Anyway, as soon as I got there I sent out slides with nice cover letters to galleries that I found to be good. I think I sent a couple of dozen. And they all came right back saying basically get lost, ha ha ha. The only place that was willing to show my work then was OK Harris Works of Art. I heard Ivan Karp would look at your work. So I went. I showed him slides and he said he would do a show with the first look. I wasn’t sure what he meant so I tried to show him the painting I brought, too. Then his son, Ethan, said “No, you don’t have to, he’s giving you a show . That’s good. He doesn’t even have to see it.” I still remember that well. They did my first solo show in NYC.
Do you have a favourite show-space in NYC where you often go?
Well, I’d love to say this museum or that gallery but every time I have extra time in the city, I just end up walking around watching people, looking at interesting ads, graffitis or buildings… NYC is just amazing visually in general.
When did you have your first exhibition and knew you are really getting into the spotlight?
Hmm… I don’t think I’ve felt that before… It’s really about myself and the work when it comes to shows. I am an audience too and there is nothing else better than to feel the impact of everything in the show working together to move you, and to see it happening as you place the work and do the lighting. I totally feel the spot light then, but it’s on the work, not on me.
Have you ever played with the idea of opening your very own gallery? How do you choose where to show your work?
I guess these questions are sort of like the front and the back of a same coin… I would want to open a place where I would want to show myself too but then I’d realize how tough it is to do it well. You have to have a space that maximizes the experience. You would want to treat the artists well and be capable in doing the right things. And what do you do with the expense that can be enormous? It’s easy to see that finding good places to show can be hard… So when I try to think about where to show I really can’t plan and wish for exactly what I want. It’s more like depending on my gut feeling and going with the venues that make me feel like I’m doing good to people who like the work. That often works for me. And I also don’t underestimate the people who try hard to make the show great. There often are happy surprises.
What does your art reflect the most? (you, your vision of the world, the world itself)
I think everything counts really. But one thing that’s really sure is that I get motivated to go to the studio by what’s happening in my studio, and working there gives me more ideas and directions. So it’s like exploring what’s possible visually with what I do in my studio. As I learn, I get these layers of ways to deal with visual narratives and new vocabularies also develop, and as I keep going, I come out with more ways to see things differently.
From what I know, you have started with drawing – how and why did you do this shift to sculpture?
I think I wanted the experience to be more articulate and immediate. I do still like the suggestive, gestural quality of drawings I used to do but it’s also so gratifying, so mysterious and so strong to grasp those qualities as much as I can and tell it in 3D with every detail. How it actually happened was that, first, I picked up on the object like quality of drawings. It’s like seeing them as they are with their distinct presence with every imperfection as theirs, instead of seeing them as a picture of something that is supposed to be dipicted. I think a big part of modern/contemporary art has to do with this realization and appreciation of taking visual experiences as they are. In a way it’s sort of primitive compared to, say, like music. That led to paintings with textures and irregular edges. Then, they started to grow off the wall. At some point they were more like sculptures.
Photo by Evan Harris
Do you listen to music when you are working or perfer it to be in quiet?
Sometimes I do. I think the music can shift my mood to get things going. Or the rhythm can be nice to keep the physical work going. But there are moments I have to keep it totally quiet. My guess is that certain processes need certain brian activity and sometimes music interferes with that… But I do love music.
If you happen to put on tracks while you are working, which artists, bands, etc. do you listen to?
Oh, that could be anything really. Lately, I’ve been really liking this band from the 70s called Popol Vuh. It sounds sort of familiar but it also sounds totally out of this world. The mellow speed and the atmosphere seem to work for the pieces I’m working on. I grew up listening to lots of aggressive band music and I still have a soft spot for it. For example, someone posted at Facebook the other day this band called Up Front, and I’ve been enjoying listening: it sounds sort of like Minorthreat, a lot of energy and there is a pleasant innocence about it. I’ve been listening to lots of classical music for the past years also. The level of development in non-descriptive expression in the field is just amazing. It’s such an inspiration and encouragement for working in the visual field. Ah, I can just keep going about music…
I am so sorry, I know artists hate this question, but I simply HAVE TO ask this:
where do you take your inspiration from – nature, art, architecture?
I think anything can be inspiration if you are talking about how I get motivated to work: Anything that got put together well to have a cohesive whole that functions more than its parts. Like, you wake up and go outside and suddenly feel like the way the sun hits your face just explains everything about why you still want to be alive. You feel so fulfilled and happy. It’s just the same old sun and same old self in the morning but somehow the combination means something to you… And that can be a good inspiration. But like I said, it’s mostly the developments in my studio that inspire me to go further.
Do you take decisions on the materials you will work with before you start with a piece or doese the piece itself tell you what materials to use?
My work grew out of paintings so the idea of materials dictating the pieces is sort of new. I always thought it’s natural to paint every bit of surface to make sure it goes with the form. So far I’ve been mostly using plaster shells on foam/wood structures to paint on for all practical reasons (cost, ease of use and so on…). For a long time, I didn’t understand sculptors talking about materials with almost religious intensity. I mean, why would you expect a surface which is hardly uniform or predictable to do what it is supposed to do? Now I understand the seductiveness of the materials and the convenience and the thrill of counting on happy surprises and so on but I still like the flexibility and the super real presence which a meticulous paint job can present. So if you see different materials in my work, they are most likely painted or stained that way.
A stained plaster piece looking unlike plaster. #68, 2007-09, 41 x 23 x 20 1/2 inches, enamel, oil, plster, tar and wax
Do you as an artist have a favourite artist?
please give some examples of artists you like from different epoches, different styles, etc.
Hmm… That’s tough… I’ve got my own interest in process and direction and I look at my work with that all the time so my capability of appreciation is somewhat skewed I’m afraid. Also, when I started out, I meticulously tried to avoid doing what other people were doing. I was sort of afraid of getting influences I guess. Also, I have a rather more standoffish relationship with visual art than, say, with music. I would be often totally taken by music, almost getting drowned with the pleasure. But when I look at visual stuffs, I’m often more objective in general. More interested in seeing alternate ways and investigating than consuming it for pleasure perhaps… I think it’s only in the past a few years that I’m becoming more open to seeing and enjoying as I feel more grip on my own work. But I’ve always enjoyed Martin Puryear’s work. I like the forms he works with. The way the work relates to you in the space is also nice: And the subtle playfulness he puts. I also like Anish Kapoor’s work. I saw his Bean piece in Chicago a few years ago, and it was so encouraging and happy to see people totally being fascinated with it. I mean, I saw people literally dancing around it and having fun being with it. And I also enjoy lots of figurative works. That’s what I started out with myself (I used to love doing figure drawing). I think Basquiat is just a marvelous painter. The sense of color, the way he composes in such striking ways, the confidence in lines with such fragile subtlety and doing all that with such spontanaity is just amazing. I see many others that I enjoy online, people like Kris Kuksi, Ron van der Ende, Eddie Martinez, Christina Bothwell, Blu, Jen Stark, Karim Hamid, just off my head randomly…, and many more I guess… I just had fun seeing the Nick Cave show in NYC. When I was in school, I looked at artists like Jesper Johns, Rauschenberg, Kiki Smith, Eva Hesse, Tapies, Louis Bourgeois, and so on. But they all came in through other students’ works that sort of emulated them. It’s interesting to learn that way. You see what the essential qualities are for the students and you experience the first hand account of dealing with the materials…
You don’t give titels to your work – why?
I’m really interested in what I get by combining visible things, and I don’t want to make it about stories, references, symbols and such, at least not on the conscious level. I mean, I want the visual language to hit your guts hard, not the theories, anecdotes, or background stories sort of making you feel something in wishy washy ways. And also I don’t want to limit the work inside of my narrow cultural and social constraints. So I figured the easiest thing I can do to put the focus on the substance is not to work with those things. If they creep in, I just try to stay away from them. It’s very inefficient but it’s very effective when it works. I think I can get to the bottom of what we are that way. So not giving them descriptive names is a way to make sure that it doesn’t imply things aside from what the forms are doing. But it’s probably something to do with my laziness too. I know that you could come up with titles that can enhance what I’m trying to do… So oh well…
Where do you take your friends to when they are coming to visit you in New York?
I don’t know… I’ll ask my Facebook friends, ha ha ha. I don’t get to eat nice exotic stuffs out in Eastern Long Island where I live, so I might try to convince them to go for nice Vietnamese, Thai, Korean, Indian or Chinese… If you are talking about food that is. I used to like walking around in Chinatown looking at fish, veggies thinking about cooking. Nice sushi would be good too. If there are good shows, gallery hopping in Chelsea is also nice. But like I said, what I like to do there is just taking a walk looking at things, people, buildings and etc. I always see interesting things in NYC…
How do you relax? What do you do in your free time?
I go to my studio ha ha ha. I can always work on something… I have an electric guitar set up and I have fun with that sometimes. It’s a nice thing to bounce on when I feel like I am stuck with my work. Or when I just have the urge. I think I have some sort of addiction to loud, distorted guitar sound… I also keep sketch books everywhere and I like to draw shapes and things when I have time. Also, my wife and I watch TV shows sometimes. We’ve been enjoying “Breaking Bad” lately. What a fabulous show.
What do you get to read MAGAZINES or BOOKS more often? Which are your favourite magazines?
I haven’t read any magazines for a long while… At least not the actual paper versions. I really depend on internet for news and articles now. I used to read lots of books too and I aways had a big pile next to my bed, but not much reading lately. It’s just that the time is limited since we got two small kids. But I’ve read a couple of Malcom Gladwell’s books recently and I really liked them.
Which 2-3 names in the fashion industry from former era do you see as iconic?
Hmm…you got me. What can I say. I’m the kind of guy who shows up at my own opening in a Dickies jump suit making my wife’s eyes roll with dismay…
Photo by Evan Harris
Who are the most influential names in art today?
Not the individuals, but I think TV shows and movies totally rule on that. And in terms of the impact and the quality too perhaps. I don’t get to watch many but some shows I’ve watched are just amazing: Like Breaking Bad, Wire, Sopranos, or some episodes from Battlestar Galactica, for examples. You get great writing, camera work, acting, set design, music, sound effects, visual effects and on and on. I just think the total experience from them is the culmination of art history on the planet. Have you watched District 9? Just amazing.
Which of them has left an imprint on your style (if at all)?
Well, things get in me and I must express something in my work, but like I said, I don’t make my work about anything specific so that’s something I can’t really answer…
What are you working on right now?
Right now I have 4 pieces in progress. They seem to be freer into space and they speak a bit more as shapes. I’ll see how the surface gets treated. I started out as a painter so working with the surface is a very special and fun process for me. I’ve been also trying a few resin materials instead of plaster since the pieces are a bit bigger and more complex.
Die Like You Really Mean It:
October 26 – December 3, 2011
Opening reception: October 26, 6-9PM
179 East Broadway
New York, NY 10002
Featuring works of:
Erik Benson, Paul Brainard, Pia Dehne, Hiroyuki Hamada, Elizabeth Huey, Erika Keck,
Emily Noelle Lambert, Frank Lentini, Eddie Martinez, Brian Montouri, Bryan Osburn, Kanishka Raja,
Erika Ranee, Tom Sanford, Christopher Saunders, Kristen Schiele, Ryan Schneider, Oliver Warden,
Frank Webster, Eric White and Doug Young