Thursday, March 7, 2002 to Saturday, April 20, 2002

    • Friday, March 8, 2002
    Kevin Ei-Ichi deForest's productions move between humorous high art objects and serious pop culture proposals. Often they are interactive, with participants spinning discs or clambering into hybridized art/furniture. As objects occupying an empty gallery, they still refer corporally to absent participants through such intrusions as anthromorphic person-sized holes and organic clusters of lumps. Protrusions, concavities, ruptures, prosthetics, and fluid emissions have been portrayed repeatedly in deForest's art of the last ten years. Other works have literally spelled out the body's pressures: "Dry throat in airport terminal" or "On the verge of orgasm" (Purgatory Series, 1994). Veiled or explicit, there is an undeniable current of sex running through his work, one that opens passages between humans and objects, cultures, locations, and modes of engagement (contemplation and play). This strongly suggests coupling as a route to interfacing, to hybridizing and thus evolving, in art as in life. Although deForest also deals directly with his Japanese heritage, it's the fusion of this with his Euro-Canadian/North American half that takes precedence — i.e. his point of arrival, rather than his point of origin. In such, his work does not sit easily with "the politics of difference" that have characterized much of the discourse on identity and multiculturalism. His recent discreet reworkings of Japanese culture take tatami mats, capsule hotels, and karaoke/disco for inspiration. Culturally specific objects and phenomena are gently morphed to fit the artist's need to create interchange between diverse entities. Island of Change - Otokonohito (Boy) (1998) is a grouping of tatami, woven straw mats whose grid-like regularity is interrupted by a series of fist-sized bumps. With these cyst-like protrusions, ready to discharge from beneath its surface, the traditionally neutral floor covering makes a new, gendered and potent, claim for our attention. Similarly, the organically-shaped openings in Onnanohito (Girl) (1998) manifest a lavish femininity. Both works are eminently touchable, yet uncomfortable, mirroring the truth and falseness of gender designations placed on people. Disco Tatami (1998), where glittering mats are customized with two turntables, is an overt invitation to play and mix. An interactive hybrid of East and West high and low cultures, it not only suggests the flexible nature of these cultural worlds, but also repudiates any clear divide. What deForest seems to be proposing is the incongruity of designations we make that create oppositions where none exist. Instead, he prefers the messiness of coupling and seams between like and un-like, where no body has impenetrable boundaries. From within the womblike confines of the Make Me painting, a space is provided to contemplate the ongoing state of identity in flux, defying simple borders and discreet categories. Jen Budney