Kyoto: Kenji Nohara "Cloudy to Fine Play"

The Kodama Gallery in Kyoto just closed their latest show of Kenji Nohara.This is the artist’s third exhibition with Kodama, the previous one was held in Tokyo last November. There were several already familiar works (a plant-like sculpture whose trunk is “planted” in a large pot and whose with molecular-looking leaves have the underside of playing cards, a Mexican souvenir mask lined with fractured mirror fragments, and the groupings of ameba-shaped mirror puddles). A sliver of gallery space was partitioned off for a separate installation of an alley-coffee-house. According to the artist, this installation combines his ruminations on the cultural importance of back alleys, and his memory of a particular coffee house where an old man, visible only from the back, was playing the game of chess—the clicking of the pieces interrupting the silence. The alley-coffee-house is squeezed into a tight space that ends in a sharp-angle lined with mirrors. A heating lamp pointed at a plush cherry red velvet chair keeps the front of the shop realistically warm, while faint tapping stands or the sound of a virtual chess match.

The show also featured half a dozen new large-format paintings, some containing found objects, and an interesting grouping of small multi-media collages. Among these, one collage departs from the basic rectangular format because the thickness of its right margin is almost double of its left. The resulting effect is that of a book left ajar: something presently invisible is about to be revealed.

The theme of pending disclosure repeats in the left section of the collage where a boy scout voyeuristically peeks around an imaginary corner at a vintage pencil drawing of a wide-eyed girl. In my opinion, it is the act of looking that connects these new collages and themirror sculptures: a perfunctory first look, must be followed by a scrutinizing study of the subject, still even then seeing the whole work would possibly require a system of multiple mirrors or some other such magical device for unpacking the artist’s imagination.

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