Kabutocho Nihonbashi Exibitions

Masao Kinoshita, Top: Yoga Asura, 2009, 62 cm(H), Painted stone clay; Bottom: 鳥獣戯画 兎,2009, 58cm (H), Painted Glassfiber. Image courtesy of the artist and the gallery

Unseal Contemporary and gallery Frantic, both located in 16–1 Kabutocho Nihonbashi, are holding two ostensibly different exhibitions that are still very much united by their shared focus on the grotesque. Unseal is showing Masao Kinoshita’s painted glassfiber and stone clay sculpture where bodybuilding hares and frogs flex their outrageously ripped human bodies, while hybrids of man and beast meditate—their exposed muscle and cartilage poised and stretched out in attitudes of high yogic concentration. According to my colleague, a scholar of Buddhist art Eric Huntington: “The artist seems to be referencing both specific poses of human yogic practice and the multi-limbed and multi-faced deities well known in Hindu and Buddhist iconography. The title “Yoga Asura” probably refers to the Asuras, a class of supernatural beings typically at odds with the Devas, the “gods” of Hinduism who also appear as heavenly beings in Buddhism. Some view Asuras as nearly demonic, while others interpret them like the Greco-Roman Titans, who once had divine power but were overthrown by a new order.” Perhaps, the sculpture of the muscle-flexing hare could then be referencing the Greco-Roman component of the power stand-off.

Shu Ohno, Incomparable Something, 2009, ink on paper panel, 24.3 x 33.5 cm. Image courtesy of the gallery.

One floor above, at Frantic, five young artists represented by the gallery (Aya Ohnishi, Haruki Ogawa, Naoki Sasayama, Ryoji Suzuki, Shu Ohno, Taisuke Mohri) are showing their latest drawings. The tamest of all are Ogawa’s works—ripped and tinted paper, as thoroughly tactile as his paintings but without any of the oils’ analytical baggage. Shu Ohno’s nightmares of a “Huge Slug,” attacking apartment buildings look quite surreal, but their placement in Paolo Veronese-like environments transforms their threat into pure pictorial fancy. Something similarly intricate happens in Aya Ohnishi’s organic visions where tubular forms turn and twist their way into the oubliette doors of fantastic looking interiors. Then there are the baddies of Ryoji Suzuki, one particular character caught the attention of my seven-year old son by drinking, eating and smoking simultaneously, with smoke billowing out into a space helmet of a bubble around his head. Have fun looking!

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