Sunday, November 2, 2008

Neon Cage, Phallic forms and multi colored String

A review of the Garden of Metamorphosis
exhibit on display at the Walker Art Center
by artist Tetsumi Kudo

The Walker is featuring three galleries full of unique and powerful works by an incredibly, virtually unknown (in the main stream) Japanese artist named Tetsumi Kudo. Kudo's unusual work blew me away with alien like sculptures of varied textures, a completely unique set of colors all his own, which included neon orange, neon pink and other unusually bright colors. The forms he uses are equally as outrageous, phallic symbols, bird cages, spools, baby carriages, and sprouts.

The Garden of Metamorphosis is an exhibit that is quickly dismissed and even found disgusting by many; especially those that are not open to a new and challenging ideas. Kudo's work is definitely not for everyone, especially not uptight grandmas (no offense to grandmas). I do want to express my true thanks to the Walker for once again having the fortitude and confidence to bring in yet another display of controversial art to Minneapolis.

I should probably mention here that I am employed by the Walker Art Center, not as a writer, but as a gallery monitor (security guard). I am lucky enough to be able to spend some of my days inside a gallery of Kudo's artworks and getting paid for it (although not paid very much). Part of my excitement in being employed by the Walker, is getting to spend ample time in the galleries, and having the opportunity to take in the work on much more intense level than as a common visitor.

During my ample time with Kudo, here is what I have learned. The show at the Walker gives you insight into Kudo as a young artist, a middle aged artist and an artist at the end of his life. Exploring the work you find that Kudo, the artist, goes through a vivid metamorphosis during his life; and that his artwork also goes through a similar metamorphosis, and that we also, as a viewer, get to go through a visual metamorphosis with him. I will admit right now, if you put me in front of one of his neon pink caged phallic pieces, seeing the work on its own I would consider its validity and meaning as art; but when confronted with a room full of twelve cages I begin to understand the overwhelming them of entrapment and sexual frustration and confusion, which also symbolizes a scary control of the freedom of mankind. Many of these cages with mysterious puddles of goo and dried fluids were used in his action performances, that one can experience in the hour long film also on display.

The film's highlight is a very creepy baby carriage work, which Kudo pushes down a well populated residential street in what I assume to be Japan. I unattached brain scurries down beside him as he pushes this carriage which is crying out. If a passer by happened to peak into the carriage they would find a very disturbing image of neon sexuality. The carriage itself is on display.

A room full of growing spouts and a grafted garden featuring dismembered body parts (life size) growing out of some sort of enormous chemistry like ecosystem. You can step into a number of black rooms that are covered in neon phallic shapes and hanging strings. There are also a few series of drawings, prints and embossings that go along with the sculptures and installations. The early sculptures that appear in the first room are some of my very favorite, as the textures are very diverse and the forms are very ambiguous. I have a hard time trying to describe these sculpture, I can only say that they look like gigantic rotten bell peppers that have developed some sort of computer virus as little metallic beads are seeming to grow from the rotting and yet colorful flesh.

I find his room full of dangling phallic forms to be quite surreal and disorienting. The subject matter seems almost rude at one point, and yet invites you to question the meaning behind such a bold use of the male body part, which is sometimes spewing fluids. In the end, the colors and composition are appealing and the meaning seems to dangle over me just as the neon phallic shapes do.

The very end of the experience, you are almost relieved to find a very minimalistic finale to his body of work. A series of impressive sculptures flowing with vein like multi colored string wrapping around a geometric form or spilling out a skull with dettached fingers in front playing the string game, cats cradle. A colorless, and transparent kite hangs above with tiny gooey eggs of various sizes, from the eggs is different relationships of string. I find Tetsumi Kudo's use of string in these final works, to give the best representation of colors attributed to his body of work. They are so thin and concentrated and at times wound together in a very organic way to combine colors in a very unusual way. The string seems to be more visually stark than the very same colors on the bars of the bird cages in the previous room. The skulls seem to pay respect to his upcoming and eventual death, and highlight his struggle and acceptance of his own looming death. Kudo surely did not shy away from his mortality, and he makes sure to present it to us as in his works.

If you enjoy modern art, unique visions, and strange and fantastical things, you must see this exhibit. Tetsumi Kudo challenges any viewer to accept a new visual language and experience the oppressions and feelings of a man constantly struggling with the world around himself. If you are ready for something new, get yourself to this exhibit!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Crazy stuff ... but very interesting!

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