The Power and Precarious Balancing Acts of Jiro Takamatsu

Feb 5, 2016 9:50PM

The late Jiro Takamatsu was a founder of Hi Red Center, a Fluxus-aligned collaborative devoted to staging public social interventions in 1960s Tokyo. He is just as widely credited as an active member of the Mono-ha movement, in which artists in Japan created visually minimal works from natural materials and contexts. In mounting the first solo gallery show of Takamatsu’s work in L.A., Kayne Griffin Corcoran has undertaken the ambitious challenge of illuminating an artist whose diverse output defies easy categorization. 

Visually anchoring the exhibition is Rusty Ground (1977), which was first shown at Documenta 6 in 1977. Composed of a large slab of iron lying on the floor, the sculpture mimics a plane, except for one section, which is lifted into the air by a wire rigged to another end of the slab. The work, hefty in mass yet delicate in gesture, and hovering between two and three dimensions, demonstrates Takamatsu’s interest in how our physical experience of space can be interrupted by our intellectual understanding of it.

Dimensionality is also explored on canvas and paper, mostly with beautiful drawings and book cover designs that employ graphics, texture, and color to construct three dimensional space. While some of these feel like architectural experimentation, the “Shadow” paintings—in which silhouettes of objects and people are rendered in shades of gray on white—are more philosophical. Haunting in their starkness, they have less to do with memory or mysticism than with the metaphysical. Are we still with the object in the presence of only its shadow?

A constant dialogue between the physical and psychological emerges as a thread among all of the works in the show, and among the seemingly disparate spurts in Takamatsu’s career. Compound (1972), a sculpture composed of a ladder tilted such that one leg rests on a brick, represents a juxtaposition that renders untenable two otherwise mundane and useful objects. It is rebellious in its unorthodox use of everyday items to alter our perception, but is not a one-off. A series of photographs depicting similar assemblages and studies demonstrate a rigorous experimentation with the social and psychological underpinnings of the materials and spaces in our lives.

—Honora Shea

Jiro Takamatsu” is on view at Kayne Griffin Corcoran, Los Angeles, Jan. 30—Mar. 26, 2016.

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