Did you ever read The Unbearable Lightness of Being? Kundera suggests that being over-burdened with cares and anxieties is not the worst lot in life. Indeed, not being burdened at all is pure hell, and the paradox is that we all seem to strive for this hell of perfect and unalloyed burdenlessness. I was reminded of this work by Jacob Hashimoto’s current show at Mary Boone Gallery.
Skyfarm Fortress is a collaged sky by Jacob Hashimoto. His work fills the whole room with hundreds of floating kites in a variety of colors and it is absolutely beautiful. Vivid colors and patterns, which often could be distracting, are gorgeously combined together. It is a breathtaking experience to stroll around his installation with the sound of rain dropping on the roof. If you look really closely, however, the main concept seems to be that the weightless sky has engendered a weightless fortress, which dangles in the air from the kites representing the clouds. Indeed, the fortress seems to want to hide itself or conceal its real identity by posing in such vivid colors.
One of the interesting things about the work is its structure. It is a 3-dimensional installation without volume. The work only consists of 2-dimensional kites that are made of intricate cut papers, therefore it becomes nothing but a series of lines from a side view. Being arranged in different layers these kites sometimes make clouds and sometimes make the bulky fortress.
The kites hanging from the ceiling naturally reminded me of a mobile. Yet, mobiles are supposed to be floating in the air without a specific form. But these layered mobiles are combined together, constructing a solid structure. At this point, a mobile made of 2-dimensional kites becomes a 3-dimensional sculpture. The apparent heaviness of the fortress below dramatically contrasts with the rippling sky and it makes the sky more fluidic and unreachable. The kites slopping from side to side truly make you feel up in the air.
It is a very good choice for Hashimoto to use kites for their cultural aspect besides their structure. He successfully delivers his cultural sentiments without bragging too much through the materials and colors. Organic materials to build a kite, such as traditional papers and bamboo sticks, are part of Asian culture and also the vivid color of the kites is a heritage of Japanese traditional painting. I sometimes feel uncomfortable with artists who deal with Asian subjects in an exaggerated manner. I feel the same kind of discomfort when I go to an Asian restaurant displaying a Buddha statue in front and get welcomed by a waiter bowing with his hands together. These actions are the result of an archaic Orientalism that lacks contemporary cultural understanding. Hashimoto links his own cultural background to a universality in a very sophisticated way.
Jacob Hashimoto: Skyfarm Fortress at Mary Boone Gallery
September 6 – October 25, 2014
541 West 24th Street
Article by Ban Lee