Toru Hayashi: Travel Agency Garden: A Manhattan Tour

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June 14 to July 14, 2001

Exhibition Director: Toshio Shimizu

Curator: Reiko Tomii

Artist:   Toru Hayashi

Toru Hayashi is a conceptualist who creates endearing images. Up close, each work in the present exhibition reveals no more than a handful of lines registered in a white void. Still, his trees-precious yet intently drawn-evoke a warm, tender feeling, whereas his landmarks-cryptic marks on canvas-first confound, then amuse us.

Born in Kobe, Japan in 1963, Hayashi came to art at the age of twenty, when he happened upon drawings by the renowned fashion illustrator Stsu Nagasawa in magazines. This encounter eventually led him to enroll in a night program at Nagasawa’s school in Tokyo in 1987 and, subsquently, end his employment at a notable research institute as a system analyst. In 1990, having learned the basics of picture-making, Hayashi left Japan for New York. The usual struggle of a would-be artist from a foreign country ensued. In his rearch of a voic truly unique, he experimented with diverse media, often in a conceptual mode, with mixed results.

A breakthrough came with Equivocal Landscape, a drawing project he began in January 1998. At the time, as he recalls, he “just felt like drawing a tree”. The conceptualist in him set up the task of drawing tree every day in a sketchbook of some 140 sheets. Now at the sixth volume, he has filled his sketchbooks, leaf after leaf, with animated scenes portraying the daily doings of one or two or sometimes more trees: thinking, loitering, embracing, chatting out, playing. What has sustained him in this extended undertaking was a discovery, perhaps at the second sketchbook, that he was indeed creating a sort of self-portrait, because the Chinese ideograph of his name Hayashi (meaning “forest”) comprises two trees side by side!

In March 2000, Hayashi founded a conceptual company called Travel Agency Garden. According to him as its C.E.O., the agency’s goal is to offer “another form of travel”. This is saliently borne out in its initial production, View to View: A Manhattan Tour. A group of a dozen or so canvases (re)present famous sites of New York City, from the Statue of Liberty to the Grand Central Station, for the exclusive enjoyment of its inhabitants. Highly abstract, the sights are undecipherable without the accompanying title places, inviting New Yorkers who know these places so intimately to re-experience the familiar city through the mind’s eye of the artist.

Review: The New York Times, July 6, 2001, by Roberta Smith

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Zhou Tiehai: Placebo and Tonic

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April 26 – June 2, 2001

Curated by Toshio Shimizu

Artist: Zhou Tiehai

ISE Cultural Foundation proudly presents the works of Zhou Tiehai for its Fourth Asian Art Series exhibition.

After graduating from Shanghai University with a degree in art. Zhou Tiehai stopped pursuing an art career. It was not until the mid 90′s that he resumed his artistic activities.

By this time the Western art world began paying attention to Chinese Contemporary art. Zhou Tiehai observed carefully the specific venues and international contexts in which Chinese artists started to participate in.  He recognized that Chinese contemporary artists were trying to penetrate into international art world in adopting Western traditions but that Chinese contemporary art was not accepted or incorporated into the mainstream of Western art. He thought that the role of Chinese art in the West was something like that of a “Placebo” effect. Placebo is not really effective medicine but if the doctor prescribes it as medicine, it really works.

Why did the West need a Placebo (that is Chinese art)? During the last decade of the 20th century, the Western art world searched the globe to satisfy its thirst for new art forms. Western journalists and curators traveled to every corner of the world such as Africa, Asia, Oceania to find “new” artists. They searched for various styles of art expression such as art related to magic, mixture of ethnic art and Western art, or local modern art etc.. Those arts had not been accepted as art by the Western world by that time. These “new” art forms couldn’t be considered as art, the Western art world was in such a state of health that it couldn’t help but swallow them as a Placebo.

Zhou Tiehai established his studio in Shanghai, and started creating his “Placebo” to export throughout the world. He conducts marketing research to determine what kind of placebo people aware of what placebo is effective in a specific area, thus spends many busy days on his mobile phone in Shanghai. His “Placebo” usually takes the form of camel caricatures. Currently he is producing a new drug called “Tonic”. Tonic is a traditional drug that Chinese people take everyday for their health. Thy Tonic is supposed to have a remedial physical effect, but the psychological effect is stronger. His new “Tonic” is very effective for Chinese who are afraid of Westernization and as a result his tonics take the form of a traditional Chinese ink drawing.

For this exhibition, Zhou Tiehai will prescribe his “Placebo” and “Tonic” to people in NY for the first time.

Review: The New York Times, May 25, 2001, by Holland Cotter

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Chatchai Puipia: Paradise Perhaps

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March 8 – April 14, 2001

Curated by Toshio Shimizu

Artist: Chatchai Puipia

ISE Cultural Foundation will present the third part of its “Asian Art series” with exhibition entitled “Paradise Perhaps” by the outstanding contemporary painter from Thailand, Chatchai Puipia (born in 1964).

From the late 1980′s to the early 1990′s, a new artistic movement started in Thailand and they hace joined the international contemporary art movement. In the lare 1980′s, the Asian economic region gained upward momentum with inflow of foreign investors and corporations that made significant inroads in the Thai market. This economic boom changed Thailand’s social structure from one of an agricultural society to that of a manufacturing society, Accordingly, the lifestyle of the Thai people changed dramatically. Skyscrapers and automobiles soon took over the city of Bangkok. Young artists began to respond to their urban lifestyle and to their “new reality”. Pushed to explore new realities and means of artistic expression with the end of the cold war and globalization, Thai artis made entry into the international art scene.

Chatchai Puipia is one such artist representing this movement in Thailand. Chatchai portrays Thai people who experienced these recent dramatic social changes. In Chatchai’s portraits, some of his figures demonstrate surprise, other demonstrate insanity as they try to keep up with the social changes, and others ponder the meaning of change. His expressive painting are among the most figurative in Thai art.

His recent works have become more imaginative as he expresses the affects of conflict and anxiety to the peace of mind of the contemporary human being.

Review: The New York Times, March 23, 2001, by Holland Cotter

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Bae, Bien-U: Spirit/Life-force Korean Contemporary Photography

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January 19 – February 24, 2001

Curated by Toshio Shimizu

Artist: Bae, Bien-U

We will proudly present an exhibition entitled “Spirit/Life-force” by Bae, Bien-U, one of the leading contemporary figurative photographers in South Korea, as the first exhibition of this new century.

Despite the fact that South Korea has produced many outstanding photographers, it is only recently, in the long history of photography in South Korea, that photographic work has come to ve recognized as a fully-fledged form of art. Indeed, until the Democratic Manifesto of 1087, traditional and rather square-looking styles of art were dominant in response to the unstable nature of South Korean politics and economics. During this period, there was little opportunity for artistic Photographs, such as those resulting from free personal artistic expression, to be recognized as art.

In spite of these circumstances, Bae, Bien-U has continued to take photographs such as the ones he took in the mountainous area of Zenrado where his hometown in located, or in the old town of Keisyu, that are filled with his own personal artistic expression. These photographs show quietness that are in direct contrast to an era of rapid social and political change. His works are full of inspiration and are outstanding for their spiritual expression.

If we look back over the history of South Korea, his photography seems like a preparation for the present period of social change, in harmony with the spirit of freedom developing among the people. During the 1990s, people have come to be able to express themselves freely in a democratized South Korea. Moreover, recently, there has been a huge public response to an exhibition of a series of landscape photographs taken by Bae, Bien-U. Perhaps this is because his art seems to tackle, and gives hints of a way to solve, a fundamental question, “Who are the Korean people?”

Consequently, Bae, Bien-U became the first Korean artist to establish photography as a form of art, as an expression of a unique human personality. In other ways, too, he has contributed to a new era of photography as art in South Korea. He has, for instance, organizes collaborative exhibitions of photographers and fine artists in order to expand and challenge the possibilities for the photographer as artist, and encourage public recognition for this cause.

This is the second exhibition of The Asian Art series in the New York gallery of the Ise Foundation and the first solo exhibition of Bae, Bien-U in North America.

The words of the artist

I found that the significant words for the title of this exhibition were “Spirit” and “Life-force”. As you all know, “spirit” is “the power of all lives” in the world and incorporates the ideas of “vitality” and “sprightliness”. “Life-force” means “full of life” and incorporates a “strength in the feeling of being alive”.

I the Korean language, both “Spirit” and “Life-force” have the same pronunciation. When we write in Hangul, we also use the same characters.

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From Inside the Body: Chinese New Photography and Video

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October 20, 2000 – January 6, 2001

Curator: Toshio Shimizu

Assistant Curator: Zhang Li

Artists: Rong Rong, Liu Zheng, Hong Lei, Zhuang Hui, Zhao Bandi, Zheng Guogu, Feng Qianyu, Hong Hao, Wang Jinsong, Zhao Liang and Xu Zhen

ISE Cultural Foundation Gallery is pleased to announce a new series of exhibitions focused on Asian Contemporary Art which introduce the dynamism of Asian cultures. The exhibition organized by ISE Cultural Foundation with a grant from Japan Foundation (Beijing Office) and by curator, Tohio Shimizu and assistant curator, Zhang Li. The first exhibition (dated from October 20 to January 6) will show a new generation of artists in China.

“From Inside the Body”, the first show of the series, introduces photographic and digital image srtists who are ROng Rong, Liu Zheng, Hong Lei, Zhuang Hui, Zhao Bandi, Zheng Guogu, Feng Qianyu, Hong Hao, Wang Jinsong, Zhao Liang and Xu Zhen. They became prominent in China in the latter half of the 1990′s. They express their individual inner worlds using images; what they express is coming “from the inside the body”.

The artist’s emergencies came about through a combination of two main factors. One factor is that historically radical changes in photography and digital imaging concurred with the time when these artists became artistically mature. Revolutionary developments in digitalization caused essential changes in the technologies of processing, communicating, storing, and visualizing images. Image handling became much easier for artists. Another factor is that they became artists at a time when the Chinese people became more aware of individuality. Individualization rapidly progressed in large cities in the 1990′s. This is clearly reflected in paintings exhibited during this period. Even officially acknowledged artists, who used to work in approved social motifs, transformed themselves into painters working with personal themes. As awareness shifted from superficial political struggle to individual inner quest, it was natural for the young artists to visualize their acute sensitivities.

Thus, photography and visual images, which had originally been media for the masses, were applied to artistic expressions of the inner world. Photography shifted from documentaries to more artistically accomplished works. Video began to be used by artists in the mid-90′s and it didn’t take much time for leading artists to create experimental visual images in order to express their individual psyches. Artists of this show could be described as “artists expressing their individual inner worlds and has his/her own content with his/her own unique proclivity and possibility”. What certain is that each artists found their place of expression in NEW PHOTO and, in the future, they will pursue their own paths in order to find their own individual true “selves”.

Review: The New York Times, November 10, 2000, by Holland Cotter

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