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Art review: Jacob Hashimoto at Otero Plassart

October 15, 2009 |  7:07 pm

Art In several new wall works plus a large installation that cascades down from the rafters and up over the rear gallery wall, Jacob Hashimoto gets his kite strings all tangled up. That’s a good thing. The twist energizes compelling work that, in the past, has sometimes seemed too tastefully sedate.

At Otero Plassart, the wall-work “On a Pitch Black Lake” employs materials Hashimoto has used for several years. Hundreds of small “kites” made from bamboo and Japanese paper are suspended in space from wooden dowels, which protrude from plexiglass wall-mounts. These nominal kites are layered, here anywhere from six to 12 deep, in a work that is more than 6 feet tall and wider than a viewer’s outstretched arms.

Most of the circular kites are translucent white, which makes the spatial flow ambiguous; numerous ones in the lower rear are decorated in geometric patterns of bright color — red and blue squares against yellow, for example, reminiscent of something by Ellsworth Kelly, or jaunty rainbow plaids. An irregular, overall pattern of black disks punctuates the work’s visually delicate, indeterminate surface.

Like the other kites, the black discs are held in place with black nylon string. Unlike earlier works that I’ve seen — Hashimoto lived in Los Angeles before moving to New York a few years ago — these strings don’t form a three-dimensional vertical and horizontal grid that organizes the image.

Instead, the black lines zigzag, intersect and intertwine, tugging at the implied physical orderliness of the abstract image. Like gathering energy in a supersaturated, ionizing cloud-chamber, the black dots seem to be gathering toward the center of billowing white atmosphere, while a curving vertical row at the right pulls everything from the center toward the edge. One result is that the work’s luminous three-dimensional structure transforms into a quiet but determined force field.

For the installation work, Hashimoto has pulled out all the stops.

Building on a work he made for the Palazzo Fortuny in Venice, Italy, earlier this year, “Forests Collapsed Upon Forests” is a huge cascade of large white-paper disks suspended on black string. From one that rests askew on the floor, hundreds of others rise up in a cloud that undulates back toward the rear wall, sliding over its open top and out of view.

The effect is like a mountain landscape in a Japanese screen painting, although the light-filled space of the room stands in for a flat-screen painting’s reflective gold-leaf. Against this Eastern motif, Hashimoto poses Western and Middle Eastern abstractions: Vertical lines of disks are decorated with patterns as simple as modern stripes and as complex as centuries-old paisley.

Toward the rear, a thick, dense swarm of paper birds and butterflies disturbs the scene, their frozen but furious flapping enhanced by fat, twisted tangles of black string. The tangles are disturbing. At first they seem like an error, snarls signaling a kite’s imminent downfall. Then it emerges as an insistent warning, as forests collapse upon forests.

— Christopher Knight

Otero Plassart, 820 N. Fairfax Ave., West Hollywood, (323) 951-1068, through Nov. 7. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Photo: Jacob Hashimoto's "Forests Collapse Upon Forests." Credit: Fredrik Nilsen. Courtesy: Otero Plassart and the artist 

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