by DONALD EUBANK
( The Japan Times / Jan 3, 2008 )
Taka Ishii Gallery
You may remember Bill the Cat from Berkeley Breathed’s cartoon strips of the 1980s and ’90s, “Bloom County” and “Outland.” If not, Google him — a Hunter S. Thompson-esque character, Bill’s face was an asymmetrical explosion of whiskers that always appeared on the verge of causing him to tip over (if the lethal combination of liquor and the drugs that sent him to the Betty Ford rehab clinic weren’t going to do it themselves).
Currently on show at the Taka Ishii Gallery (www.takaishiigallery.com) in Kiyosumi complex are a series of pencil drawings by Kyoto-based artist Hiroe Saeki that seem to channel the strange extensions of Bill’s whiskers. That’s not to slight them at all but to celebrate their playful visual nature. Over large white spaces, Saeki draws intricate organic shapes that sprawl out to the borders in uneven but ultimately balanced directions. In clean lines over subtle washes, her latest works contain baubles of modern and traditional Japan — hair ornaments, high-heel shoes and handbags — seemingly caught in spidery hairballs. Saeki has been so successful with the images she meticulously creates that typically, as soon as they are finished, they are snapped up by collectors.
Going to the Kiyosumi complex in east Tokyo can be frustrating — you know that the artists there have been vetted by the most successful of internationally minded Japanese galleries, and hence by the international art world. But the exhibitions can feel hit or miss, leaving you to wonder what is going on in the contemporary gallery world. Saeki’s exhibition is the best at Taka Ishii in the last two years. Go take a look to have your faith renewed if your experience with shows there has been at all the same.