With Cut Paper and Glue, Katsumi Hayakawa Builds Tiny But Infinite Worlds

Karen Kedmey
Feb 4, 2015 3:28PM

When taking in the magnificence of such city skylines as those of New York, Hong Kong, or San Francisco, some people—like contemporary Japanese artist Katsumi Hayakawa—also consider what lies inside and beneath. In his delicate cut paper sculptures, he blends the seen and the unseen, effectively breaking down the divide between the grand and the infinitesimal.

See from the Side 1, 2014
McClain Gallery

“I want to mix small worlds, like micro-cosmos, [with] macro-cosmos,” says Hayakawa, who builds entire worlds out of cut paper and glue. He applies his training in woodcutting, painting, and paper working to these intricate sculptures, a new selection of which is currently on view at McClain Gallery, in “Katsumi Hayakawa: Paper Works.”

The artist’s wondrous constructions spur many references, among them the venerable tradition of Japanese craftsmanship. Think hand-embroidered kimonos; entire architectural structures built with nary a nail; sumptuous lacquered objects whose richness derives from painting on layer upon layer of the sticky, temperamental tree sap. Such painstaking processes, and the patience and perseverance required to master them, anchor Hayakawa’s own handiwork.

The instructions-based, openwork sculptures of Sol LeWitt also come to mind. Especially when considering Hayakawa’s two suspended cityscapes included in the exhibition, formed from gridded towers of varying heights cut from white paper. These miniaturized urban vistas resemble  dense and layered city skylines as much as they recall the elder artist’s minimalist structures.

Reflection, 2014
McClain Gallery

When making these works, the artist keeps in mind not only the parts of the city that are defining and visible—its many-windowed buildings; the patterns of its streets and sidewalks; the unevenness of its topography, seen from a bird’s-eye view—but also the invisible (to most) substructures that power our technological revolution. These include computer motherboards and chips, as well as the thick bundles of fiber optic cables snaking through and beneath city streets and buildings. A work like Color Element Unit (2014), for example, resembles massive apartment blocks faced with colorful balconies and open windows and—at the same time—the intricate interior networks of a computer. Reflection (2014) recalls both the densest megalopolises pushing ever farther out beyond their borders and the so-called “snow” that appears on television monitors when signals become scrambled. This is what Hayakawa means when he speaks of merging the micro with the macro; hereminds us that every city encloses within it a multitude of smaller worlds.

Karen Kedmey

Katsumi Hayakawa: Paper Works” is on view at McClain Gallery, Houston, Jan. 15–Feb. 14, 2015.

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