Russo Lee Gallery
Ko Kirk Yamahira:
deconstruction and reconstruction
October 4—27, 2018
Obsessively meticulous and labor-intensive in their construction, borderline perverse in their fetishization of process and materials, Ko Kirk Yamahira’s mixed-media constructions push painting into the realm of the sculptural. The works begin as color-field paintings or silkscreens, but they don’t stay in that form for long. The Seattle-based artist uses an X-acto blade and scissors to unweave portions, or the entirety, of each canvas, deconstructing the picture plane into an assortment of hanging threads and fuzzy nap. He variously combs, drapes and otherwise manipulates these components, while also placing the stretcher bars in counterintuitive positions until the painting has essentially become a site-specific sculptural installation. The results of this reductive process recall the geometries of Robert Mangold or Ellsworth Kelly, or Sam Gilliam’s radical reimagination of the potentialities of canvas.
In Russo Lee’s front exhibition space, Yamahira’s dramatically installed works (all untitled) seemed to dialogue with one another in an intuitive call-and-response. The symmetrical layout of a charcoal gray canvas contrasted with the jaunty, jazz-like asymmetry of a rose canvas, while in the center of the gallery, a completely unwoven canvas yawned in a wide arch, the rectilinearity of its stretcher bars playing against the lyricism of the drooping, sinuous threads. Interestingly, the artist’s facility with coaxing shape and source material into virtuosic—and sometimes visually perplexing—configurations shares a similar modus operandi with another Seattle-based artist, Joe Rudko. Although they work in very different media (Rudko’s métier is works on paper), both artists intuit that radical acts of destruction and reassembly allow a picture plane and the elements that undergird it to be seen in fresh ways. With surgical precision and inexhaustible compositional invention, Yamahira recontextualizes the building blocks of painting into sumptuous, unexpectedly sensual objects that defy easy categorization.