E’ WAO KAGOSHIMA
at THE BOX, Los Angeles, June-August 2018
After his exhibition, the artist started a mail art communication with the gallery and Mara McCarthy.
BODY BOX BINDING
— about E’wao Kagoshima’s world of physical language —
By Rosanna Albertini
Maybe the autumn wants to be white. A flood of summery red brightness fills his memory, he can’t get rid of it. Dryness is drifting across his eyes. The place is real and inscrutable. Shrunk to the bones or happily swimming in water, fish pull my hair and push my brain into an unfamiliar space, as if “rejecting the idea that everything is in its right place; there isn’t any.” (Robert Rauschenberg) A tree grows from a bone and a pink branch from a woman. There is no land or sky, we see an abstract space of transformation. The artist’s duty is to an absolute living, out of time or common sense.
Let’s pretend the alphabet starts with B. Art, area, affection, affliction, adoption, adulthood would disappear from language. Same kind of displacement wrings the world of physical language, E’wao Kagoshima’s pictorial world, out of any expected grammar. Every thing, and each form, have a mind of their own. Humans along with butterflies, toys, birds, plants and words communicate with the living landscape they are in as they like it, as they dream, without rules or restrictions. The same happens to humans, animals, objects or undefined figures.
“Everyone is right. Things become true as soon as someone believes in them. Reality is within us; our mind creates its truths. And the best truth will not be the one sanctioned by reason.”
André Gide, The White Notebook
Kagoshima’s colors might be the prevailing message, they fade or intensify like the daily mood. The artist has absorbed the natural beauty and sends it back as luminous islands from his brain: sometimes dry, often wet images, can he feel his brain is wet, as neurobiologists have discovered? They didn’t see red fish though, with smiling lips after swallowing dreams of government (John Kennedy), a cat, now part of their aquatic body — red fish looking after a red human baby. But E’wao did.
It’s a space beyond limits where some artists like to be. John Baldessari taught a plant the alphabet in 1972. He showed the plant the letters with patience, repeating their sound to make sure that the plant’s brain could grasp and memorize. And Nico Muhly composed I drink the air before me in 2010. Sounds and atmosphere of the living environment enter his entire body, not only filtered by the ears. Steve Galloway placed American alligators walking on the clouds in mid-air. Many other artists can probably be added, but these I know well, as well as Haruki Murakami’s books in English translation.
But in the end, I see what I see, missing Japanese language and Japanese life experience. I don’t understand Kagoshima’s images, like a blind woman talks of colors never having seen them. Simply, I love them. There is a stark naked reality in his painting and drawings: a spellbound territory, completely personal, that seems to me distant from either Japan or New York, where E’wao moved in 1976. My illusion? Could be. I hoped to learn from Japanese literature, only to realize that many characters and situations of Murakami’s books also belong to the Western tradition; they circulated all around the world in fables and stories for centuries. As I would like to pick out some Japanese evidence in Kagoshima’s images of Saving Diaspora, I could cry like his blue mouse, my mind lost and taken by the transparent lines of a butterfly, almost invisible, which to me is the feminine organ — as my grandmother called it since I was able to understand language. Of course I loved to detect the butterfly in such a claustrophobic room where a face cries blood and memories are petrified on her forehead.
Storytelling is a universal art, each artwork by Kagoshima is a visual story. A woman slips out from the elephant’s trunk, maybe the cats dancing around her came from the elephant’s nostrils. The elephant seems happy to throw a shower on her and the cats. There is no separation between the three different species. They bear the same light colors of nakedness and celebrate their closeness.
Breathing Skin opens an incongruous series of dialogues: a fish with a crab, a bird to a fox, a woman to another identical woman, an undefined human creature bubbles water in a tank that could be a head. An exquisite gentleness permeates the drawing, lines are smoothed by water. It could be mist, or a layer of air flattened on paper.
Kagoshima’s life wasn’t easy at times, his art congealed feelings into poetry of distortion, and open-eye dreams. In his personal new world fish are bigger than the Statue of Liberty, and Sleeping Beauty floats in a miraculous clarity in the middle of an intestinal maze. The forest around the castle grows in green spots so powerful they cannot be contained, and spread on the frame. Happy birthday E’wao, it’s so good to meet your dreams.
“It’s all a question of imagination. Our responsibility begins with the power to imagine.
It’s just like Yeats said: in dreams begin responsibilities.
Flip this around and you could say that where there’s no power to imagine, no responsibility can arise.
Just like we see with Eichmann.” Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore
Kagoshima was born in 1945 in Niigata, one of the 4 cities destined to become a target for The Atomic Bomb in Japan. The town was spared in favor of Nagasaki. We are both children of the war sprouting from the same year, new leaves in a time obscured by lack of imagination. Only one Italian scientist around Enrico Fermi in his laboratory imagined the scientific monster they were pursuing. He was a Neapolitan dreamer. He quit, and disappeared. To write it now, it sounds like a fairy tale. Our little brains born then did not know anything and yet kept growing as if their souls had been wrinkled by the fears and destructions around. To these days, any personal deception is linked to a primeval spot of darkness in human hearts. As an art student, one afternoon with friends E’wao was enchanted by the sunlight going through the beer falling from the pitcher into the glass. He had the idea of two metal sculptures that made him one of the few pop artists in Japan.
At the Box I saw his artwork for the first time during the summer, a one person exhibition. Immediately after, E’wao’s mail art to Mara started, almost weekly, from New York to Los Angeles, sending little by little fragments of his life to a place of trust, of friendly reception, a sort of harbor.