Toru Hayashi: Travel Agency Garden: A Manhattan Tour


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