Kohei Nawa, ‘Installation view of PixCell-Deer#24’, 2011, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

This taxidermied deer has been completely transformed through the artist’s use of variably sized “PixCell” beads, a term he invented. PixCell is a portmanteau word combining the idea of a “cell” with that of a “pixel,” the smallest unit of a digital image. Whether intentionally or unintentionally on the artist’s part, PixCell-Deer#24 resonates with a type of religious painting known as a Kasuga Deer Mandala, which features a deer—the messenger animal of Shinto deities—posed similarly with its head turned to the side, and with a round sacred mirror on its back. For painters of the Rinpa school, the deer was depicted often as a companion of ancient sages and had auspicious or poetic associations.

Image rights: © Kohei Nawa. Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Purchase, Acquisitions Fund and Peggy and Richard M. Danziger Gift, 2011. 2011.493a–j.

About Kohei Nawa

In his distinctive practice, Kohei Nawa uses glass beads, prisms, glue, plaster, and spray foam to cover found objects, such that their original contours become variously distorted and magnified. The artist explains that through this process, “the existence of the object itself is replaced by ‘a husk of light’, and the new vision, ‘the cell of an image,’ is shown.” Fittingly his most recent series is titled “PixelCell” (2009-), for which the artist has used taxidermy animals, including deer, cheetahs, rabbits, and coyotes. Nawa has also founded an artist collective space dubbed “Sandwich,” through which he takes on mutli-disciplinary design projects. In 2011, he was approached by Rei Kawakubo to design headwear for Comme des Garcons’ Spring/Summer 2012 runway show.

Japanese, b. 1975, Osaka, Japan