selfportrait.net's blog covering community artists, gallery shows, and the whereabouts of young entrepreneurs and artistic talents from NY, LA, London, Paris, the world.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Tam Ochiai at team Gallery NYC


With a far more sophisticated and dynamic touch than that of author Louis XXX or similar illustrators, Japanese artist Tam Ochiai has taken to delicately mimicking the honest and romantic style of an untrained child sketching with colored pencils—thinly veiling, of course, the formal talent he possesses as an established artist whose current show has been written up in artscape and Tokyo Art Beat.
The opening of Ochiai’s fifth solo show at team (gallery inc.) last Tuesday included seventy 11 x 8.5 colored pencil drawings framed and hung in a neat row which ran all the way around the white walls of the Grant Street space. Some of the forms are wispy gestures on shallow backgrounds, manifesting the crème of Western cultured life’s treasured indulgences—french fries, tennis, classical music; others are layered, waxy color fields in which hover what appear to be moons, but are titled far more ominously (“Benign Tumor”).

The stated source of the unpolished style is the show’s protagonist, real life 19th Century prize-winning show cat Tiam O’shian IV, through whose mind Tam Ochiai approaches his subjects, not unlike an experiment in, say, being John Malkovich. The thin, uneven pencil scratches do indeed suggest a feline presence, but I would argue that it is hard not to associate the drawings more with a gesture towards childhood and memory. One looks upon one of the pieces in the show as one looks upon a Tin Tin story—sweetly optimistic, bright and simple, but unerringly true and somehow aesthetically and emotionally profound. The moments he has sketched out are deeply personal in their rawness: the minimal strokes allow the viewer to fill in the face of their own long-distance romancier or favorite tennis partner, we identify which of the listed French breakfast treats hold special places in our hearts, etc. The more frenzied scribbles seem to reference the way in which emotions, in memory, fall apart, and their strands float freely through our remembered past, as we attach them where we will in its recalling. Tam’s drawings become somehow our own intimate pictorial memories, only more elegant and more exotic—the way we would like to remember them.

It was beautiful to see a slightly older Japanese artist look backwards in time this way, especially because he does it while distancing himself from the now-mainstream techniques of Nara or Murakami: channeling a daunting youth through the whimsical plasticity and consumerism of Japanese anime culture.

Best of all, the gallery was subtly but completely interrupted by two large installations: a giant tube in the main room and a white cube in the back room which creates a sort of square hallway path for viewing the series. You could walk through the show without noticing much of the sculptures except the inconvenience they cause…that’s the point. According to the press release, the objects “can’t help but alter the movement of a viewer attempting to move simply from drawing to drawing. The sculptures serve to foreground the role of the human body and of architecture in the “reading” of drawings.” They succeed—may I say that they explore the ways in which we construct and obstruct our own memories?
The party, too, was fun—photographer Ryan McGinley pranced past team gallery Associate Director Alex Logsdail and social fixture Drew Caldwell to browse the works. If you can’t make it to team for Tam, definitely pencil in time to see the Cory Archangel show which will take its place later in the year. Check out teamgal.com for details.

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