Naotaka Hiro

Peaking

December 10, 2016 - January 28, 2017

Opening Reception Saturday December 10, 6-9pm

We live in our bodies, but what does it mean to fully understand our physical, cellular selves? You realize that while the back of your head is a part of your own skull, you really have no true understanding of it. How can you comprehend your body outside the scope of visual perception, and is there a way to understand one’s physical body in other ways? Hiro’s practice addresses these questions, and in exploring what is seemingly a narrow scope, discovers an expansive psychological environment within the limits of his own human form.

Peaking is Hiro’s second solo exhibition at The Box. Over the last five years the artist has been a gloriously delving into the medium of drawing, capturing the body and its internal sphere in works on paper.  This exhibition features a selection of these drawings, along with two bronze body casts related to the forms and shapes interpreted within the drawings, holding the scale and form of the body. 

The bronze cast, Fan (2016), in The Box’s large gallery, depicts a kneeling Hiro, and captures the gesture of making a half circle with his body, deliberately allowing for deformations to appear in the casting process. This formal looseness reflects Hiro’s belief that these body cast sculptures are not meant to directly replicate his body or his actions, but instead challenge the idea that in an attempt to clearly ‘see’ your own body, there is only the messy attempt to see one’s self. Hiro outlines this idea well: “I am not interested in making a perfect replica of my own, but to create a work of reinterpretation or reconstruction of my own image based on my consciousness and the limitation of actual ability of seeing myself.” 

The Box will also be showing a new series of paintings. They are related to Hiro’s body cast works, in that the body and the canvas are integrated during the painting process. To produce the paintings, Hiro connects the canvas to his own body with a number of ropes (connected by a number of gromits dotted along the perimeter of each canvas). Additionally, holes are cut into certain canvases to enable Hiro access to particular areas of the surface. These details in the painting’s construction allow for greater manipulation by the artist, as Hiro wraps the material around his body as he works. Made with dye and oil pastel, the paintings maintain a rich, dark presence. There is a way in which these works seem to be a depiction of the human psyche, where the body and the mind integrate onto the canvas.

Lastly, Peak and Peaking (both 2016)are another example of the artist placing himself inside the material to create a visual image. Peak is a large tubular canvas in which Hiro works inside, using fabric dye and paint to create a ‘scan’ of his body and its movements from within the interior of the tube. While painting, Hiro films his process using a small camera from within the tube – this is Peaking. These two pieces are a coupled presentation of the human body, intestinal and visceral in its energy and aesthetic: “Just like the large drawings and the self-casting sculptures, Peak examines and traces not only my body but also my movement. The canvas surface operates like a film or a drawing: it is a replication of what’s on/between/beneath the canvas surface or a layer of skin. The graphite lines and scribbles are like wrinkles, spots, moles, and body hair while the pink dye suggests flesh and skin, interior and exterior. 

Naotaka Hiro (b. 1972, Osaka, Japan) lives and works in Los Angeles.  He received his Master of Fine Arts from the California Institute of the Arts in 2000. Recent exhibitions include Big Question (2016) and Pit and Log (2013) at Brennan & Griffin, New York; A Modest Proposal at Hauser & Wirth, New York; Mirror Effect (2015) and Men in LA: Three Generations of Drawings: Naotaka Hiro, Paul McCarthy, and Benjamin Weissman (2014) at The Box, Los Angeles; solo exhibitions at Misako & Rosen, Tokyo (2015, 2008, 2007); and RSVP Los Angeles: The Project Series at Pomona, Pomona College Museum of Art, Claremont, CA (2015).