What's on Los Angeles | Index

by Jody Zellen

December 12, 2019

Takako Yamaguchi
New Paintings
As Is Los Angeles
November 3 - December 21, 2019

Takako Yamaguchi

For her 2018 exhibition at As Is gallery, Takako Yamaguchi displayed nine paintings that focused on women's clothing. Each piece was a self portrait of sorts as Yamaguchi was photographed in these outfits for the purpose of the painting. In these images, Yamaguchi cropped the body closely and never showed the face, but rather concentrated on the details and the specificities of the fabric, buttons and zippers. The eye gravitated to the textures and the precision of the painted renderings of the clothed body.

In her current exhibition, Yamaguchi presents seventeen minimalist, quasi-monochromatic, oil on linen paintings, all 18 x 24 inches. These trompe l'oeil works explore the optical illusions that occur when 3D becomes 2D. To create each painting, Yamaguchi constructed models that combined basic shapes— triangles, squares, circles, parallelograms, and rectangles— into geometric structures. These structures were then lit and photographed. Well aware that photography flattens space, Yamaguchi tasked herself with creating realistic representations of the photographs, carefully painting the white shapes, their shadows and varying tonalities to suggest their original depth.

Each painting depicts a low relief or built form against a white ground. Untitled (7), (all works 2017-2019) approximates a section of metal siding with triangular folds. One side of each of eight vertical strips is light, while the other side is painted a darker shade to suggest it is in shadow. This simple, yet strange illusion of depth is remarkably convincing. A similar illusion occurs in Untiled (4) where Yamaguchi paints two circles that appear to have been excised from the base rectangle. They sit side by side like two holes in the surface of the linen. Untiled (11) depicts a pair of concave and convex circles painted with absolute veracity.

The mind's eye understands that these are paintings of three dimensional forms, yet as presented, they are flat surfaces. The illusion is so realistic, it is tempting to look at the paintings from the side to make sure they are not sculptural. The push-pull— abstract/representational, photograph/painting— that Yamaguchi creates is what gives this body of work its magic.

That Yamaguchi is a skilled and conceptually savvy painter with a keen eye and a sharp wit is a given. While the paintings share a kinship with geometric abstraction and can be placed within the canon of monochrome and white on white paintings, this project feels like a conceptual undertaking. Yamaguchi creates hyper-real representations of abstract originals while literally and figuratively playing with what is above and below the surface. The works resonate beyond their simple configurations and demand to be appreciated on multiple levels.