A Figure Flattens Japanese Artworld with Robust Tradition

CATM CHELSEA and Fund Art Now
SYNAPSE by Yasuto Sasada (Japanese artist)
November 3rd until December 4th, 2011
500 10th Avenue

Installation, photograph courtesy of CATM

Restrain from squashing the next cockroach you see: he may be your last. Could you imagine New York City citizens championing for our blackbeetle buddies? Artist Yasuto Sasada rallies people in Japan to help those who have been hurt by the series of natural disasters that have profound effects on the island—including the Ookuwagata beetle. Sasada not only portrays pests on the verge of extinction, but he more-accurately documents the current in Japan through tradition. Culturally, his artworks reflects rebuilding of Japan: each work is a whole comprised of individual parts echoing Japanese people’s engineering aptitude and embrace of Japan’s “whole.”

Photograph courtesy of CATM

SYNAPSE is Yasuto Sasada’s first exhibition in New York City. The 26-year-old artist from graduated from Kyoto University of Art and Design, class of 2008. Since his high-school years, Sasada revived the Japanese contemporary art scene by concentrating on continuing the traditional Japanese art, culture and practice rather than other’s focusing on “flattening” the past with popular movements making money in auctions. Sasada said that he has always wished to be a part of Japanese history as well as the history of art. However large his goal, his head doesn’t grow bigger; the humble painter’s ambition grows from his vocation to continue in a path of Japanese artists inherent to his culture.

Sasada is quite celebrated in Japan (winning multiple public awards, such as “SHIN-KOBO”, new public competition, Hiroshima contemporary art museum, Hiroshima, Japan), but he shines internationally due to his obsessively-detailed representation of Japan through traditional Japanese technique and iconography with his own process and contemporary media. He uses 33-mm ballpoint pens to render his subjects (such as mutated fish due to the recent nuclear and oil disasters) onto canvas. After the pens have broken or used, they draw light shades of red, yellow or green, which Sasada works into each piece. Recently, he begins to experiment with bold acrylic paint strokes and Swarovski Crystal.

Photograph courtesy of CATM

Sasada grew up in Kurashiki in Okayama, a town similar in size to Boston, where he learned architecture and design through historical buildings and museums. When he was 18 years old, he chose to study art and design in Kyoto rather than Tokyo to further meditate on the origin of his culture. Visiting the Sanjusangendo Temple, famous for 1,000 life-size sculptures of Thousand Armed Kannon, became part of his daily routine.

Photograph courtesy of CATM

At the university, Sasada concentrated on visual and graphic design while practicing painting and drawing on his own time. Although his curriculum was rigid and focused on development of craft, Sasada borrowed his school’s rules and applied them to his personal artwork. Before graduation he presented his personal pieces to instructors, who loved the work. His first monumental public contribution was a large portrait of his great grandmother, 105 years old.

Now, Sasada continues the same process that has lead him to his grandmother’s portrait: he looks at a canvas with no preconception until something comes to him. He can draw for 16 hours straight without remembering to eat. When he does feel a hunger pain, he indulges in eel and tuna. In New York, he laughs and admits that his favorite food is the American oyster because of the great idea to add “ketchup [cocktail sauce]” on the side. Following his family’s practice (his father, a mechanical engineer), he researches Japanese history on his own to expand his work into diptychs and triptychs amalgamating iconography from scrolls to billboards.

Photograph courtesy of CATM

After SYNAPSE, Sasada is commissioned to complete a mural on one of the largest outdoor public-art wall spaces in Japan. Sleepless in Tokyo now, Sasada plans to attain a place in history as past Japanese scholars and artists, through patience and hard work with some karaoke breaks. With success, Sasada creates contemporary works that reach international audience that remain Japanese—hoping to be on view in New York City again to further spread awareness through visual mastery.

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About Megan M. Garwood

Megan M. Garwood is a New York City-based editor, art critic, commentator and aesthetician, as well as the Associate Director at Leslie Feely Gallery on 68th and Madison. Her guilty pleasures include metaethics, morality, conceptual art, and Coney Island side shows. Feel free to contact her via email at megan@whitehotmagazine.com.
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