October 20, 2008

Yamaguchi's doe-eyed children

In the LA Times, David Pagel reports that Ai Yamaguchi's delicately painted little girls at Roberts & Tilton are too melancholic for easy consumption. "On the stark white walls of the pristine gallery, Yamaguchi has hung eight curiously shaped panels that resemble puffs of smoke or clouds. Two larger ones lie on low tables, with padded tops made from old kimonos and eight spindly legs jutting out at awkward angles. Each of her canvas-covered panels is impeccably finished, with up to 50 layers of gesso and endless hours of sanding. Its rounded edges and perfectly smooth face appear to be cast from porcelain and glazed to lily-white perfection. The little girls Yamaguchi has painted on these exquisite surfaces are equally delicate: tender wisps of children who look like dolls dressed in colorful kimonos. The ones lolling around in loose-fitting pants or nothing at all look even more breakable....Such subject matter is common to Japanese comics, where it usually fuels male fantasies. But Yamaguchi's doe-eyed children are too melancholic to be consumed so easily. They comport themselves with such heartbreaking dignity that it is too painful to contemplate the tragedies that have sent them to the icy heaven they inhabit. The installation suddenly seems less like a refuge from suffering and more like a temporary respite from the spirit-crushing grind they will return to when their break is over. Bliss is out of the question."

"Ai Yamaguchi: Hana wa no ni aruyouni," Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA. Through Nov. 8.

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