For Seattle-based artist Ko Kirk Yamahira, the finished painting is a beginning rather than an end. Painstakingly removing individual threads from the weave of the canvas, Yamahira deconstructs his paintings, turning surface into form. He often disrupts the geometry of the canvas’s hidden support structure as well, cutting out sections of the wooden stretcher bars to create detached segments bound by loose thread. Opening his practice to a form of shared authorship, Yamahira does not prescribe a fixed orientation for these pieces, preferring that they remain free to be reconfigured by others each time they are installed. Each of Yamahira’s individual (untitled) works functions as a facet of a single project that can never be finished, part of what he sees as a continuous, daily process of becoming through undoing.
This exhibition, Yamahira’s first solo museum presentation, samples the artist’s recent output—including several pieces made for the occasion—to offer a meditation on duality and the relativity of perception. Several works in the exhibition are obverse pairs, such as two pieces with the same image repeatedly silk-screened in a grid over the entire canvas. Yamahira has removed all the vertical threads from one and all the horizontal threads from the other, testing the ways in which such alterations affect the legibility of the image, and exposing the painting’s wooden armature. This line of inquiry is continued in a new suite of four works in which Yamahira has taken paint-stained threads removed from other works and attached them directly to the stretcher bars, fusing the disintegrated image surface and the interior support that it typically conceals. Each of these paintings appears as a suspended four-paned window, literalizing the illusionistic “window on the world” offered by traditional, representational painting.
Mark making, usually an additive process, becomes reductive in another new work, in which Yamahira has punctured the canvas surface in a pattern of seemingly spontaneous swirls and curlicues. The two halves of this piece sit on the floor and lean up onto adjacent walls, projecting out into the viewer’s space and casting a shadow image behind them. Executed in a methodical, laborious manner but with a nod to the loose gestural brushwork of Abstract Expressionism, the work plays with the idea of the painter as intuitive genius, a myth associated with that mid-twentieth-century movement, and points to the more mundane routines that occupy much of artists’ studio time. In these and other ways, the exhibition subtly probes the essential nature of painting, distilling a simultaneity of object and image and emphasizing the time-based aspect of creation and reception.
Born in Los Angeles and raised in Tokyo and London, Ko Kirk Yamahira moved to Seattle from New York in 2015. He has exhibited in galleries in the United States and Japan, both individually and as a member of the artist collectives SOIL and Art Beasties.
Frye Art Museum
704 Terry Avenue
Seattle, Washington 98104 | U.S.A.
Photo: Ko Kirk Yamahira. Untitled (detail), 2018. Acrylic, graphite, unwoven canvas, wood, mirror. Photo: Mark Woods.