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April 6 - June 2, 2007 at Palos Verdes Art Center, South Bay

by Shirle Gottlieb

As the earth spins through space in our cataclysmic twenty-first century, how astonishing to find an exhibit composed of paper constructions and installations.  Not video or electronics, not mixed media or hand-held cell phones, just paper.
At this period in contemporary history when the world's creative energy seems focused on the horrors of war and destruction, five innovative artists have chosen the ancient material of paper to create ephemeral, three-dimensional forms that are not only peaceful and provocative, but ask philosophical questions about nature and the human spirit.  How to describe them is difficult, since most of this work relies instead on visceral imagery that speaks directly to the senses.  Curated by Jean Clad, the collection as a whole taps into subliminal concerns hidden deep in the human psyche.
As you stare at "The Earth Breathes" (four large-scale mind-bending collages constructed from handmade paper with mulberry fiber), you can feel the timeless expanse of life that artist Yoshio Ikezanki recalls from his tranquil childhood on a remote island in Japan.
As you contemplate the hours, days, weeks, even months that Tanja Rector spent cutting ornate flowers out of reams of blank paper that spill over the table, you get a sense of the  industrious silence she celebrates as part of her Dutch heritage.  Like counting beads or shelling peas, Rector's chosen creative act together with its aesthetic impact is calming and meditative, and also offers a wonderfully clever rumination on Dutch still life.

Yoshio Ikezaki, "The Earth Breathes--
Kurikaesu (Repeat)," 1993, handmade
paper with mulberry fiber, 35 x 49 x 1 1/2".

Tanya Rector, "Chair-Table-Wall Composition," paper/thread/
paperclips, 168 x 60 x 120".

Rie Hachiyanagi, "House of Beings: Language," 36 x 84 x 108".

Genie Shenk, "Workbook" (detail),
1997, paper/mica/laser print,
five panels, each 30 x 25".

Marjorie Alexander, "Four and Twenty
Blackbirds," handmade paper, 40 x 40 x 108".

The two stunning Rie Hachiyanagi installations distinguish her as the poet-philosopher of this exhibit.  Acknowledging the origin of paper as being parallel to the birth of humanity, Hachiyanagi states that she writes poetry and creates art to verify her existence.  In the "House of Beings: Language," she creates thousands of hanging threads (words) that barely touch the surface of the undulating paper mounds that lay beneath them.  Like life and the paper she works with, words are ephemeral.  This artist's poetic imagery is inspired by the German philosopher Martin Heidegger (who called language the "house of being"), as well as Japanese Haiku poets who revere the importance of each carefully chosen word.
In contrast to the viewpoint of Hachiyanagi (which is universal), Genie Shenk's work is extremely personal.  An artist who has kept diaries and recorded her dreams for decades, she focuses on her own daily life.  Just recently, Shenk has been making books that categorize her experiences and dreams thematically.  In "Wordbook" (five laser-printed panels of paper), she creates pages or sheets bearing text and mica (alternately translucent and opaque) that explore the properties of language.

For comic relief, you'll be delighted by Marjorie Alexander's large-scale installation, "Four and Twenty Blackbirds."  An allegory about politics and inequality, it is presented in the form of hand-made paper birds fighting over their proverbial pie.  Though her subject is a favorite old nursery rhyme, the subtext sings out loud and clear.