By: Jennifer S. Li
This past December in a follow-up to its successful spring show, “Requiem for the Sun: The Art of Mono-ha,” Blum and Poe mounted a retrospective of one of the movement’s pivotal figures, Kishio Suga. The barrage of objects that made up the exhibition, all artfully arranged by Suga, lived up to the movement’s moniker, Mono-ha (“The School of Things”). The first floor contained Suga’s more ambitious, large-scale works. Upon entering the space, visitors were welcomed by A Principles of Movement – A (1994/2012), a massive igloo-like sculpture made of paraffin wax blocks.
The two proceeding rooms held works so expansive that visitors were blocked from even stepping into the spaces. Left-behind Situation (1972/2012) is a web of crisscrossing wire rope filling one of the rooms, with planks of wood placed precariously on the intersections. In contrast, Law of Multitude (1975/2012) consists of solidly standing slabs of knee-high concrete, over which a piece of plastic has been stretched taut and held down with large rocks. These installations, because of their size and physical tension, capture the performative aspect of Mono-ha. They urge one to contemplate one’s position in relation to the objects and, by extension, the world.
Departing from the elegant and sparse installations on the first level, the second floor looked like a Cabinet of Curiosities, with smaller sculptural works hung on the walls inches apart from one another. The interplay of works, all of various sizes, shapes and colors, with their irregular placement, was buoyant and melodic.
Blum and Poe’s recent spate of shows focusing on Mono-ha represents the art world’s renewed interest in the movement. “The Art of Mono-ha,” for example, was so successful it traveled from Los Angeles for a showing at New York’s Barbara Gladstone Gallery. This latest trend also has the benefit of proven historicity. When the works of Mono-ha were first being produced in the late 1960s and 1970s, by then-unknown young artists, it was difficult to document. This time around, gallerists are taking notice. What is old is new again.