April 05, 2012

Ai Kijima at Franklin Parrasch Gallery

AI KIJIMA at 548 west 22 street

April 5-28, 2012
reception: Thursday April 5, 6-8p

Hallucinatory Technicolor textile amalgamations of everything from bits of picnic blankets to kimonos, Ai Kijima’s quilts are so visually tightly packed as to make the concept of horror vacui superfluous. With compositional complexity, various values are recombined into a dizzying harmonious whole, using “old” technology (a sewing machine) to test and prod in a very new and contemporary manner the boundaries and borders of appropriation and (im)proprietary borrowing. Compulsively cutting, stitching, and transforming, she shrewdly expands on the inherent nature of quilting as a traditional craft already depending on the reuse of previously owned materials, conjuring up a recycled visionary fantasia that in its cacophonous overabundance paradoxically achieves a certain level of pictorial calm. The discarded and thrown away commercially-printed cloth is adapted by this self-professed “fabric and sewing addict” to a bizarre composite realm full of crowds of cavorting reconstituted characters. Folkloric archetypes and their offspring, corporate and entertainment characters and logos, are the found objects that range from unicorns and cats to a vintage revolver to Lucy’s psychiatric booth from “Peanuts,” a purple Teletubbie, Little Orphan Annie, Tony the Tiger, Winnie the Pooh, Bob Marley, Homer and Marge Simpsons, Sponge Bob Square Pants – and that’s just in one work – all promiscuously mingling in warm and fuzzy but also unsettling and twisted fabric-scapes of mindboggling intricacy.

“I consider myself an artist with craftsmanship. Although my materials are very domestic and my techniques come from quilting, I believe I can incarnate them into something else.” And she does, taking “craft” to another place, entering new dimensions, and building up possible narratives, all from the discarded remnants of people’s personal lives. In an act of transformative re-contextualization, the two large works on display appear to be paintings from afar but on closer inspection are quilts, though the distinction is immaterial in the face of such off-the-charts skill and execution. Sleight of hand is at play, trickery, in an exalted sense, with things, and parts of things lurking ambiguously in the background, and what could be seen as overwhelming is the fascinating sum of the parts that is greater than the whole. The wild conglomeration (to cite the second piece on view) of football players, basketball stars, feathers, Scooby Doo, Superman, pirates, Chief Joseph, Teenage Ninja Turtles, and Garfield combine to be that “something else” Kijima alludes and aspires to, and achieves. Personal interpretations and visions of the world are converted into expressive collages of mass production that double as abstract “paintings,” the detritus of pop culture is subdued and wrestled with, re-combined and blended, bringing forth an imaginative zone of excess handled with remarkable finesse.

Franklin Parrasch Gallery will be holding a reception for the artist on Thursday April 5, 2012 from 6-8p at 548 WEST 22 STREET.

Franklin Parrasch Gallery
20 w 57 st and 548 w 22 st
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