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Art review: Yuken Teruya at Shoshana Wayne Gallery

March 17, 2011 |  6:30 pm

YT_Heroes_Ultraman-3 Stenciled street art goes indoors in Yuken Teruya's recent work, made from elaborate patterns carefully cut with a knife into commercial packaging (boxes for shoes, cereal, crackers, fried chicken, etc.) and then spray painted onto gallery walls. The subtle images are diverse, including flowers, animals, bicyclists, barbed wire, birds and more.

Stylistically, the wall paintings and an overhead banner in the New York-based artist's fourth solo show at Shoshana Wayne Gallery derive from traditional Japanese motifs. Where the work really takes off, however, is in four dyed-linen paintings that jumble cultural symbols in exquisite ways.

Works like "Ultraman," which weaves the kitschy 1960s science-fiction character into a torrential cascade of vividly dyed natural designs, or "Obama" clipped from the cover of a news magazine and enfolded in Asian style employs a traditional Okinawan technique called bingata. Itself a distinctive, centuries-old fusion of Japanese, Chinese and Indonesian methods for decorating fabric, bingata is an ideal way to encapsulate modern Okinawa, where post-World War II geopolitical tensions dominate daily life, as well as the fraught globalization that characterizes so many societies elsewhere.

Teruya attempts to further this amalgamation in a video installation called "Flow," which follows paper sailboats tossed by urban water (street puddles, open fire hydrants, gutter runoff, etc.) in images projected inside empty cardboard packing boxes strewn on the floor. However, this effort to evoke a macrocosm embodying the flow of goods in a global economy is mostly a clever illustration of familiar knowledge. Teruya's lush paintings, meanwhile, offer heroic male subjects -- Barack Obama, Emperor Hirohito, Geronimo and Ultraman -- in feminine materials that complicate a power-narrative.

Shoshana Wayne Gallery, Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 453-7535, through March 26. Closed Sunday and Monday.


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-- Christopher Knight