Electric Yen Zone was the title of my solo exhibition held in Kanazawa in June, 2016. The work incorporates three main themes–money, electricity, and abstraction–and explores the relationships between these concepts. Money is represented by imagery of Japanese yen notes and coins. Electricity is represented by paintings of electrical cords and a light bulb. Abstraction is the unifying theme of this work as each image is composed with varying degrees of non-objective, non-representational fields of color, lines, and patterns. The visual abstraction in the work appears to encompass and sometimes absorb the representational imagery.
Each of the three themes in this series of work can be view in both literal and metaphorical ways.
The theme of money is represented by imagery derived from Japanese bank notes and coins. In my work, the concept of money, with an emphasis on Japanese yen, is broken up and taken apart. Imagery that appears on the Japanese yen notes, the three portraits of Higuchi Ichiyo, Noguchi Hideyo, and Fukuzawa Yukichi, are removed entirely from their context on the money as if they are spiritual beings flying through abstract scenery removed from the money’s paper on which they were printed. While each of their portraits displayed individually might evoke a narrative of each individual’s historical significance, the combination of the three of them together recontextualizes them as symbols of of political economy and capitalism. These three portraits literally represent three human beings who are historical figures, but the combination of the three faces together is instantly recognizable as a reference to money.
Images representing electricity and electrical power in my work draw attention to the importance of electricity in our lives while at the same time doubling as metaphors for social and political power. Like money, electrical appliances are things that we use every day, and we are so reliant on them that it is difficult to imagine life without them. All electrical appliances have cords that connect them to the larger system, which is the electrical grid. Therefore the images of electrical parts contained in my work place particular emphasis on the plug and the cord, those parts that are standardized and connect us to the common electrical current. The production and consumption of electricity are processes that are themselves expressions of existing political and economic systems of power. Movements that seek to change the modes of production and consumption of electricity challenge these systems of power. In this series of work, I explore this concept of electrical power literally and metaphorically.
The concept of abstraction is expressed through a style of abstract painting that utilizes flowing brush strokes, fields of color, geometric shapes, and patterns that resemble checkerboards or weaving. These areas of the painting are zones that appear to encompass or absorb imagery from other themes, along with their various meanings and social contexts. These zones are areas in which I assume the role of an artist in the tradition of Western abstract painting of the 20th and 21st centuries. I utilize the literal act of abstract painting to create abstract zones with an emphasis on form, while at the same time, in the context of the work as a whole, creating a metaphor for the practice of contemporary art making in general. These abstract zones, when viewed in relation to the other themes of money and power, take on new significance beyond the ordinary formal viewpoints of abstract art.
The relationships between these three separate themes in the this body of work, along with their various metaphorical extensions–money, electricity/power, abstraction/art–serve to create deeper layers of meaning beyond the initial literal and metaphorical meanings contained in each theme. The work explores relationships between money and electricity, money and social and political power, money and art, weaving together abstract painting with abstract concepts.
July 14, 2016