MINORU AND ECHIKO OHIRA

by John O'Brien



Minoru Ohira, Untitled,
black powder/ graphite/coffee
on Japanese paper, 38"x26".

Minoru Ohira, "Family", powder/paint/coffee/grahite
on Japanese paper, 26"x19", 1997.

(Gallery Soolip, West Hollywood) Minoru and Echiko Ohira are united not only by cultural and stylistic ties but also familial ones. Therefore this exhibition is titled, appropriately, "Duet". With this introduction, we are invited to view each of their work from the point of view of its single and specific merit; but also to reflect on the nature of the artists' eventual ( I would say inevitable) artistic overlapping.

Like the sculptures for which he is known, Minoru Ohira's drawings are of single, softly rounded shapes that are made up of smaller particulate matter. In three dimensions, that particulate matter is the detritus of construction sites (lumber, slate and so on) that is re-cycled in his formal musings. On paper, they consist of repeated markings (whorls, swirls and chevrons) that coalesce into his distinctive visual vocabulary, occasionally offset by raw pigment or tea stains applied to the drawing surface. Referencing the 'pure' form of historic modernism, he imbues it with just enough anthropomorphic suggestion to conjure up images of nature transcribed. In the most recent work, Ohira conveys his usual sense of intimacy and gentleness while broaching the realm of the monumental, since many of these drawings measure more than six feet in both dimensions.

 

Echiko Ohira, "1-11 '97",
tea-stained paper and
graphite mixed
media, 10"x7", 1997.

"Echiko Ohira, 7-7 '97",
tea-stained paper,/graphite/glue,
24"x18", 1997.

 The intimate, collage drawings of Echiko Ohira seem to have come directly from the kind of personal journal where one might record the fluid passages of moods and humours. Even without recognizable contours, the viewer understands that they are being let in on something secret. Wistful and quiet, the compositions she makes of stained bits of paper, glue, pencil marks, string and blurry pages each have a different emotional weather to report. The format is that of hand held objects. The largely monochromatic palette is suggestive of dried skin. Occasionally, the form of a rudimentary torso seems to emerge as the link between the different works in the series. Sentimental and delicate, the world that is evoked by viewing Echiko Ohira's new works on paper is filled with nuance.

The duet on exhibition is most poignant in the willingness both of these artists have to explore the emotional sources of their work. The drawings each attest to different moments, to different spirits, even different temperaments, but never once does the viewer lose sight of each single attempt to capture the momentary flash of their vision. The repetition and severity of formal means, which in some artists' work could become a drawback, for the Ohiras is a strength. They pursue their poetics with same fascinating spirit that the Stoic philosopher, Hadrian, bracketed with his commandment "Make haste slowly".