Junko Yoda at Zabriskie
Art in America
June 01, 2007
The view out of an airplane window while flying high over New York State’s Finger Lakes some years ago inspired veteran Japanese-born New York painter Junko Yoda to initiate a series of lush and sinuous abstractions that she continues to refine in the large-scale works (all 2006) featured in this exhibition. At first glance, the 14 acrylic-on-wood paintings and works on paper resemble hazy topographical maps. The allover compositions in subtle gradations of pink, beige, cream, white and pale green veined with thin, meandering dark lines, appear generally cool and contemplative. With the dense surfaces enlivened by delicate and carefully calibrated splatters, usually of magenta and pale green, the works seem positioned in the realm of Color Field painting, arrived at via a familiar second-generation Ab-Ex route. Works such as River Source #3 and River Source #4, for example, with pale pink grounds punctuated here and there with poignant splashes of Prussian blue and green, recall certain works by Sam Francis in their tightly controlled gestures. And the gentle optical effect of flickering surfaces that Yoda achieves contributes to the meditative demeanor of the paintings.
The excitement of the work, however, is in the details. On close examination, the richly textured surfaces reveal themselves to be labor-intensive collages made of countless tiny pieces of Japanese rice paper and numerous paint applications. Small bits of nearly translucent rice paper, some crumpled and others tightly rolled, are stained or painted with acrylic and then fixed to the panels where they are over-painted before yet another layer of paint and paper is applied. The Hudson, the largest work on view (8 by 12 feet), is an awe-inspiring exercise in intricate craftsmanship and elaborate design. Here, a river and its tributaries are suggested by green and blue quivering lines that course through the elegantly crenellated surface. One of the best works, River Flow (Alaska), features thin lines in deep magenta that traverse the opulent, sandy-hued surface. The vibrant webbing activates the composition at certain points, rousing the viewer from the state of calm reflection that Yoda so gracefully imparted throughout this exhibition.