Junko Yoda: The Hudson
From September 12 through October 21, 2006, Zabriskie Gallery exhibits paintings by Junko Yoda. Her recent work finds her combining painting with the application of traditional Japanese rice paper to comprise sweeping pseudo-abstractions that are epic in scope, yet elegant in craft. Junko Yoda's river paintings are loosely based on aerial views of rivers and surrounding terrain. These map-like expanses are built upon layers of Japanese rice paper. Acrylic is dripped and splattered atop the paper, and then separate sheets of paper, similarly dripped upon, are formed into tiny butterfly-shaped forms and applied to the surface. The result is a rolling flatness that is coded with chaos and a memory of a topographical map – an image that is both depictive and abstract.
At first glance, the river paintings confront a viewer as abstract expressionist, adopting that genre's scale and form. The texture that the entwined paper suggests the meditative calm of a zen rock garden. They ground the work with a sense that a craftsman is engaging in an intimate task. These monuments to emptiness can be appreciated for their elegant balancing of crowdedness and serenity, grace and concurrent gestural force – for their sheer decorative beauty and for their cool flatness. But with these balances comes the slow discovery that the painting is representational. Working primarily in New York, the artist has mused about the wonder of seeing the Hudson and the Finger Lakes from the window of a descending airplane. There is an ambiguity in the work: Are they aerial-view landscapes – depictions of the Hudson from above? Or are they maps – purely descriptive documents? Yoda brings this duality to a full-on collision: the flattened landscape of the map conflates the purely functional with the purely decorative: delicate wads of tissue paper adorning topography. The fetishization of the artist – another hallmark of abstract expressionism – is dismantled Yoda's craft-like process. She submerges her painter's hand in the anonymity of crumpled paper – the personality of the brushstroke is excluded, replaced with layers of the constrained chaos wrapped paper. The impulsive forms of rivers and landscape are composed by painstaking, obsessive repetition – almost mechanically ordered. One thinks, for a moment, of benday dots and the pixels of digital images. Yoda's work manages to be depictive in a way that a Pollock never is. It defies its own heritage as a descriptive document, becoming empty of content where a map is full, full of meaning where abstract expressionism is empty. It is a map of such scale and singular execution, that it becomes a thing of its own, transcending function, decoration, idiom and aesthetic.
Junko Yoda was born in Japan, where she studied painting at the Musashino Art University in Tokyo. In 1969 she moved to New York. Her first exhibition at Zabriskie Gallery was in 1978 at the "New Talent" show. She has exhibited here and abroad at such places as the San Diego Art Museum, the Alternative Museum, New York, the Ohara Museum of Art, the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, the Takamatsu City Museum of Art and the Tokushima Modern Art Museum.