Thu Apr 26 2007
Photograph courtesy Harris Lieberman
Time Out Ratings<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5
The beautiful, somewhat perplexing solo debut of Japanese-born, New York--based Yasue Maetake raises open-ended questions about the uneasy relationship between man and nature, as insinuated by the title of her three-channel video, To See the Moon in Exile. In it, Maetake performs actions that evoke Shinto rituals intended to appease natural forces and enhance spiritual purification. While graceful, her efforts are also absurdly futile: For example, she shovels broken glass from one side of a slag heap to the other, slithers along a beach trying to sew a cord into the sand and paints delicate white blossoms with black pigment (it doesn’t stick). The ringing of shattered glass evokes industrial waste; efforts to bind sand hint at the impermanence of human construction; and the defaced blossoms ask how art can ever compete with nature.
One sculpture in particular seems to expand on this issue. In Polaris, panels bearing satellite photos of Earth dangle amid cut-metal objects that resemble the small, devotional gifts left at shrines in Japan (it also includes a disc that resembles a satellite dish). The sculpture is nonobjective, but also allusive enough that you want to puzzle out what it means. Is Maetake implying that both science and religion reduce the natural world to a trinket? Maybe, but she also embraces the industrial, constructing her work from scrap metal, wire, nylon fiber, resin and other less-than-organic materials. But ultimately, the abstract quality of the sculpture resists specific readings, instead allowing wide-ranging interpretation.—Joshua Mack