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'Wasabi: Contemporary Art with
a Japanese Kick!'

Exhibit dates: 9 March-13 April 2006. Reception: 9 March.
about the show
artist statements directions/hours contact

Leika Akiyama
“Hello Kitty Shinto Shrine"
Mixed media installation
6' x 6'
full image

Vaughn Bell
"garment for flora-fauna relationship
(baby bonsai carrier)"
Sewn garment, tree, water sprayer, human
full image

  Todd Fairchild
"Sumo Profile"
Scanned polaroid, archival inkjet print
16" x 20"
full image web
  Amy Goodwin
“Shonen Apparition"
Ink on paper
38" x 50"
full image
Toru Nakanishi
full image
  Liz Nofziger
“Science Ninja Fantasy"
Television monitors, distribution
amplifier, dvd players, projector, sound
full imageweb

  Kai Vlahos
“Orange Eclipse"
Gouache on paper
25" x 37"
full image

about the show
In an era where Sushi lunch platters have become readily available at any super markets, Japanese culture has been infilterating the American psyche for some time. Since the 1960’s, from the early “Made in Japan” cheap imports to the most recent Sony Play Stations, Japanese design and aesthetic sensibilities have become an integral part of the American market and cultural landscape. 
In this show I have assembled a group of artists who have incorporated aspects of this Japanese aesthetism into their own unique creative language. From baby Bonsai carriers to multimedia homage to the 1970’s G-Force (Gatchaman) Japanese animation, these artists have created works of art with a Japanese twist. Subtle contemplation of meditative mathematical zen art work to pure pink plastic kitsch Hello Kitty Shrine, Wasabi gives viewers the contemporary art experience with a Japanese kick.

artist statements

Leika Akiyama
In this work I am continuing on my series titled 'Bubbles Bubblicious: A Collection of Dreamy Zen Mandala.' For this show I have created a large size Hello Kitty Mandala surrounded by smaller Bunny/Doll Head Mandalas to pay tribute to my Icon Hello Kitty or Kitty-chan as she is referred to in Japan. In contrast to Western Christian belief where there is one God, Shintoism sees spirits and divinity in nature as well as in objects. I am neither Christian nor a Shintoist, but rather a product of two opposing cultures: the East and the West. I worship mass produced objects and toy characters such as Barbie, Hello Kitty and My Little Pony and I try to put them into Mandalas, a symbol of my personal mythology and universe. By creating a context within which to surround these mass-produced often discarded or trivialized objects I am creating an entrée into my own mystical world in which they can realize their uniqueness and their "isness of things."

Vaughn Bell
My connection with Japanese culture it that of a foreigner with a deep attraction and feeling of kinship, for whatever reason.  My fascination encompasses the ritual and meditative traditions, but is especially focused on the Japanese uses of and relationship to the natural landscape.  Japanese gardens, and their miniature versions, bonsai, seem to embody this relationship.
Bonsai are cute.  These altered, manipulated trees are miniaturized in such a way as to make them humanly controlled, captives to aesthetics.  At the same time, their cultivation is a kind of worship, or at least fetishizing, of natural forms and natural processes.  Ultimately, though, I think that cuteness is the underlying appeal, and it certainly seems to be a hallmark of contemporary Japanese culture.  Cuteness: human beings are programmed to be attracted to anything small and fragile because it resembles a human baby.  Hence, I created the baby bonsai carrier.  This garment enables the wearer to come closer to nature by breathing, eating, and traveling with the bonsai.  At the same time, in an odd reversal the baby bonsai carrier forces the wearer to adapt their body to the tree’s needs, in order to keep it alive.

Todd Fairchild
I love and hate clichés. When I'm on the outside of a cliché, it is a feeble attempts to summarize a vast experience in a few words. But, there are times when I find that those few words open an instant connection between myself and thousands of others. Plastic replicas are the same for me, they are lame in comparison to the flesh and blood, yet also are capable of reflecting a deep perspective.
The plastic Sumo wrestler does nothing to convey the incredible mass and strength these athletes posses, and the goofy smile and battery-operate fan undermine the majesty of the tradition. The story it does tell is that of understanding a tradition from another continent and culture; if it crosses the divide through mass-channels, it is processed until it is non-threatening, kitsch and has commercial potential. This process leaves the tradition isolated within our massive current experience.

Amy Goodwin
Most of my recent paintings assemble small disembodied shapes to form a larger intelligible silhouette. I like grouping many small things for greater overall optical effect. While painting these works I discovered the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama who, for the last fifty years, has incorporated a stylized dot motif into much of her art. She describes these dot patterns as “reverberations from an invisible universe.” The two paintings I made for the Wasabi describe heroic shonen (boy) and shojo (girl) forms with a nod to Yayoi Kusama’s fantastic vision.
The other pieces I created for Wasabi are inspired by the illuminated sculptures of Japanese-American Isamu Noguchi. I love glowing objects and I am drawn to the idea that something is coming from the inside. Noguchi’s
sculptures, or Akari as he referred to them, are made with a traditional Japanese lantern making techniques combining bamboo and rice paper. I’ve incorporated these techniques while creating illuminated works bearing
contemporary Japanese Kwaii (cute) iconography

Toru Nakanishi
"These are the images that I found when tryng to look for traditional Japanese style painting that are still being created today. These tatoo belong to younger members of Yakuza. Images are taken with 4" x 5" large format film camera, scanned into the computer, and then manipulated with Photoshop in order to enhance the composition. Final prints are output from Inkjet printer."

Liz Nofziger
A multimedia homage to the beloved heroes of a 70s childhood—a nostalgic, erotic, violent, spectacle, re-visiting the ground-breaking Japanese animation, Gatchaman.
"Sometimes they are five...sometimes only one. The mysterious white shadow that steals close to its prey....they are the Science Ninja Team."

Kai Vlahos: email
My work embodies the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi, which stresses the beauty of things imperfect and impermanent. I create precise, symmetrical forms using simple math and compasses, and transfer these designs onto rice paper.  I then paint the forms with gouache, either orange or red, and usually apply a final wash of white,
which creates a faint patina. The paper warps and wrinkles and the color sometimes runs.  The distortion of the surface of the paper and the subtle variations of color are heightened as they contrast with the perfectly symmetrical design.  I feel that the compulsion to aspire to some sort of perfection is a part of human nature and I incorporate this into the process through the adherence to a rigid, mathematical format, but the beauty of the
pieces lie in their deterioration as they distort the delicate surface of the rice paper and consequently corrupt their own carefully planned construction.

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