Fugue is a small word with complex meanings. In music, a fugue is a contrapuntal composition in which a short melody or phrase (the subject) is introduced by one part and successively taken up by others and developed by interweaving the parts. It is unique and harmonious. Conversely, in psychiatry, a fugue is a state or period of loss of awareness of one's identity, often coupled with flight from one's usual environment, often associated with certain forms of hysteria and epilepsy. The abstract and graphic works of Jacob Hashimoto, easily rest within both of these definitions.
Using traditional kite-making techniques and forms, Hashimoto constructs exquisite three-dimensional wall works crafted from innumerable hand-painted and collaged rice paper and bamboo circles, intricately pierced and woven together into bold and striking compositions. Each paper tapestry appears to float on the wall, infinite rows, six layers deep, of interlaced kites are suspended between lines of wooden pegs at both the top and the bottom of the works, dark nylon threads create seamless vertical grids to stretch the components together. These undulating, interactive compositions demonstrate obsessions with organization, geometry, and space; and reflect an artist who aesthetically understands the essential principles of art & design. Sight lines, implied lines, figures, and grounds easily interchange and intermix to create abstract shapes and patterns, organic forms and rhythms, and structured intersections where all of the elements combine into a singular viewpoint. It works: objectively. Reportedly influenced by the space race era and California “hard-edge” abstraction from the 1960s, Hashimoto shatters the aforementioned flat surface into multi-dimensional illusions that offer much to discover visually between the layers, in the intimate spaces hardly visible. So it also works: formally.
Herein, though, enters the conflicting definition – is this all there is? Not to suggest that Hashimoto has an unawareness of his identity; but that I find a conceptual voice somewhat missing. Undoubtedly, the works presented for In the Cosmic Fugue create a handsome and airy collection; though overall I find them lacking in some of the punch found in Hashimoto’s larger / installation works where the pieces not only overwhelm the space, but me as the viewer. Understandably, not all work can be of such formidable scale and this exhibition’s intent was to more tightly organize and contain the expansive and effervescent nature of Hashimoto’s work; but I find myself missing that sense of awe and envelopment in the experience. And in its absence, I begin to scrutinize what is actually at play here conceptually.
There are obvious and numerous contradictions to explore: the hidden vs. the revealed, the bold vs. the subtle, the real vs. the ethereal. It is work that is all about contrasts from the far-reaching and opposing ends of the spectrum, intended to capture the cosmos’ vastness and infinite possibilities; however, my subjective response to the works just don’t have that far of a reach. Hashimoto refers to the works as markers, markers of optimism, meant to reflect different periods and locations into cultural landscapes. While decidedly whimsical and jovial, I fail to make the connection beyond these qualities into anything more profound. But let’s suppose, for a moment, that the conceptual pursuits aren’t the most essential attributes. What does the work convey, if anything, if not something theoretical or idyllic or emotional? Here, Hashimoto forces me to question this visceral importance; and here, it seems much less concerning. Because his works, each individual kite and each intricate configuration, are so beautiful and ephemeral; I am still transported by Hashimoto’s power in manipulating light, color, space, and motion. And in this instance, just this once, its enough.
Jacob Hashimoto: In the Cosmic Fugue is open now through December 19 at Rhona Hoffman Gallery, located at 118 North Peoria Street, Chicago. For more, visit: www.rhoffmangallery.com
Images (from top to bottom): On the Edge of Forever, 2015, wood, acrylic, bamboo, paper, and Dacron, 54 x 47 x 8.5 inches; Neutron Star, 2015, Wood, acrylic, bamboo, paper, and Dacron, 66 x 60 x 8 inches; Slow Zooms, Persistent Histories, and Ballistics, 2015, wood, acrylic, bamboo, paper and Dacron, 60 x 96 x 8 inches; and The Accidental Geometry of Optics, Fireflies, and Dark Alleys, 2015, wood, acrylic, bamboo, paper, and Dacron, 40.5 x 44.5 x 8 inches