Art work is getting in touch with humans, that is the essence of my work.
- Yuriko Yamaguchi
Yuriko Yamaguchi and the Art of Engagement
Whether she is working in bronze or wood, resin or plastic, light or color, or any combination of these materials; whether she is exploring what is natural or human, organic or inorganic, visible or invisible, rational or irrational, sensible or aesthetic, Yuriko Yamaguchi seems invariably interested in relationships and connections, between the elements of her artworks, the artworks and other artworks, the artworks and their spaces, and, of course, the artworks and their viewers.
Take, for example, Yamaguchi's installation Wonder of Wonders, on permanent display in Dulles International Airport, which speaks to travel and transition. Here, we are presented with a collection of objects cast, ironically, in bronze. I say ironically because bronze would seem an odd material in which to work given the work's theme. But that is part of the installation's point. When we think of bronze, we think of a durable metal, an alloy of copper and tin. We think of bronze in its historical context, in the Bronze Age, a time predating Christ by thousands of years, during which human beings gave up stone for bronze in the making of their weapons and tools. But bronze is as mutable as water, Yamaguchi tells us. It changes with age and is transformed by light, distance, and point of view. It is not our relationship with bronze in its historical context that matters, but rather as we connect with it in the context of an exhibit, in which it becomes a metaphor for ourselves as travelers from one time to another, one place to another, one version of ourselves to another. Yamaguchi's bronze works and ourselves are all on a journey.
It's where we're going that excites Yamaguchi, and how. In her most recent work, Yamaguchi has stripped her sculptures of their weight and removed them from their pedestals so that she might place them upon walls or suspend them in air. The effect is extraordinary and suggests a host of new ways to think about and to view sculpture. Most immediately, the sculptures become objects both to see and to experience. Viewing them, we can marvel at how Yamagugi has made sculpture out of light and color and space—sculptures which dissolve and coalesce with each shift in point of view. And because the sculptures are suspended, we can walk beneath and sometimes even inside of them. Inhabiting these aerial sculptures is to become a part of them, and is an experience which has the effect of revising the usual subject-object relationship we have with art, wherein we are the subjects viewing the object-art. This integration simultaneously decenters and then integrates us into Yamaguchi's art, where we are still subjects, yes, but also become objects, an experience which dramatically intensifies our aesthetic experience.
The intensity of Yamaguchi's artwork encourages us to surrender ourselves and our primacy in favor of immediate, novel experience. As subjects, we can focus alternatively on the mechanisms by which Yamagugi's artwork is (de)constructed, or, as objects, we can yield to pure aesthetic play, so that all notions of context, proportion, and identity, even, are loosened and freed. Like the artwork itself, we, too, become dynamic, alternately recognizable and then not, cognizant and then not. The experience emphasizes the degree to which both art and life are situated between desire and circumstance, impulse and form. The world dictates its terms to us, sometimes to our liking and sometimes to our chagrin. The experience of Yamaguchi's work suggests that we can play along for as long we wish or for as long as it takes us to grow weary.
There seems no room for weariness in Yamaguchi's work. Experiencing it offers one new moment after another, each moment motived by what? The sheer pleasure of organic play? We recall it as children and wonder where it has gone. Did we outgrow it, give it up, forget it somehow? The answer to these questions is no, Yamaguchi reminds us. Life is a matter of circumstance and choice, so long as we're alive.
John A. Haslem, Jr.
Interconnected in Art, Nature, Science and Technology
Howard Scott Gallery is pleased to present Yuriko Yamaguchi's third solo exhibition entitled Interconnected in Art, Nature, Science and Technology. This exhibition is a revised version of her 2015 show at the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa. Several works have been added for this exhibition. Some works in this exhibition will be featured in Yamaguchi's exhibition at the Asia Society Texas Center in Houston April 23rd through August 2016.
Yuriko Yamaguchi weaves delicate strands of wire and jewel-like pieces of resin into abstract sculptures that inspire a wide range of associations but resist definitive interpretations. Ranging from sprawling forms to compact, flattened circles, the sculptures recall natural phenomena like tornadoes. Cellular structures like neurons and abstract representations of digital networks. The diversity of these references reflect Yamaguchi's intuitive approach to artistic process. For Yamaguchi a work of art is the product of an organic, constantly-evolving process that does not follow a preconceived plan and instead relies on chance and discovery.
Rima Girnius, PhD
Associate Curator, Painting & Sculpture
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
Yamaguchi was born in Japan, immigrated to the United States with her family in 1971 and attended university where she was exposed to the philosophies and practices of art movement's popular during that time. She earned an undergraduate degree at the University of California at Berkeley and began graduate studies at Princeton with painter Lucio Pozzi. Yamaguchi received a Master of Fine Art under the direction of Anne Truitt, a minimalist sculptor and painter. During her graduate studies in Maryland, Yuriko began to experiment with sculpture. Reluctant to work with unyielding material like stone and metal, she responded to the work of Eva Hesse, who celebrated the process of creating a work of art.
I tried to avoid to get into fine art in my high school age although I was interested in art already. It is one of hardest career for the sake of making living. But I ended up working for Pepsi-cola pavilion during '70's World Expo in Osaka, Japan, first as a part time then as a full time in VIP lounge. Pepsi-cola pavilion hired EAT (Engineer, Art and Technology) to design their pavilion. It was a huge dome that had very innovative interior and exterior. Interior dome was covered by miller like reflective material that was used in NASA. The floor was filled with many different materials depending on where you walk. Visitors were required to walk with handheld speaker in quite dark huge space. Contemporary music composer produced interesting sound effect music during the tour for visitors. Depending on the different material floor sound changed. The exterior of the pavilion was covered by artificial fog that was designed by Fujiko Nakaya who was famous for fog art.
I worked from the design stage to the end of the Expo. I met artists of EAT and Fujiko Nakaya while working and started admiring innovative artists. While studying at UC Berkeley, Prof. Peter Selz lectured and showed us a lot of interesting documental films related to contemporary art. That also stimulated my creative mind. UC Berkeley museum showed retrospective show of Eva Hesse while I was still student there. It was stunning exhibition for me. I became interested in her use of space and materials - rope, synthetic materials like rubber and resin in minimalistic form yet organic feel.
born 1948 Osaka, Japaneducation
public collections1979 University of Maryland, College Park, MFA1975-76 Princeton University, NJ, with Lucio Pozzi & Joan Snyder1975 University of California, Berkeley, BA
Contemporary Art Museum Ise. Minami Ise, JapanCorcoran Gallery of Art, Washington DCFigge Art Museum, Davenport, IAHirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DCMuseum of Modern Art, Kanagawa, JapanNational Museum of American Art, Smithsonian, Washington DCNational Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington DCSmith College Museum of Art, Northampton, MAThe Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, Rockville, MDUniversity of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas
The Washington Post
By Jessica Dawson
The principle of transformation underlies both series, linking the works notion of life and identity as being in flux or transition. What’s new about her web sculptures is that they literally visualize the energy fields around the objects while they enmesh the viewer in their auras. A more empathetic communion results between observer and observed. Further evidence of the web sculptures’ malleability lies in their ability to shift shapes and to expand or contract to fit a specific site. A comparison of the titles from the two shows suggests that the action has also evolved, from the more general Metamorphosis to the more particular Propulsion, Leap, Arrival, and Convergence, as though the artist were zeroing in on the specifics of what constitutes change. – Sarah Tanguy, Sculpture
Web #5 (2003) is a stunning work, weird and evocative. It is 21 feet long, with the mouth 8 feet in diameter. The black wires that shape the piece — and eerily seemed to modify the very air you breathed as you stood beside it — are linked and twisted in a bent, jagged, three-dimensional drawing of improvisatory vigor. – Joe Shannon, Art in America
She examines the interrelatedness and dependence that has bound humans to animals and to the earth since, well, forever. That connectedness gets reinforced through the technological innovations that connect us in succeeding generations. Our latest happens to be the Internet....She seems genuinely beguiled by the paradoxes of human life — specifically, the illusion of individual free will in a terminally interdependent world.
The Washington Post
By Ferdinand Protzman
No other sculptor can turn paper, wood, flax and wire into wall sculptures of such intriguing ambiguity as Yuriko Yamaguchi. In the ongoing series of works titled "Metamorphosis," begun in 1991, she conjures those materials into shapes so familiar yet so enigmatic that it’s almost impossible to keep from touching them, from physically examining them to try to divine their meaning…Such evocative power — aesthetically and psychologically — of her sculpture. “Metamorphosis” is an apt metaphor for what has gone on in the series over the years…But what makes Yamaguchi’s work so compelling is its audacious ambiguity, Nothing is quite what it seems, beginning with the physical appearance of the works. With many of the pieces, it’s almost impossible to know without referring to Yamaguchi’s written description whether a sculpture is animal, vegetable, or mineral.
Meet Yuriko Yamaguchi. Smithsonian American Art Museum, December 2012