Tabaimo is featured artist and curator in final show at museum before closing for renovations

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Tabaimo is featured artist and curator in final show at museum before closing for renovations
Tabaimo, Crow, installation, ©Tabaimo / Courtesy of Gallery Koyanagi and James Cohan Gallery.

SEATTLE, WA.- SAM’s Asian Art Museum presents Tabaimo: Utsutsushi Utsushi (November 11, 2016–February 26, 2017), featuring new and existing video installations from contemporary Japanese artist Tabaimo alongside historic works from SAM’s Asian art collection chosen by the artist. Organized around the concept of utsushi (to copy or pay homage to works by masters), the exhibition showcases Tabaimo’s work and is the first major exhibition curated by the artist. “Tabaimo is a groundbreaking artist working today,” says Kimerly Rorschach, SAM’s Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO. “It’s very exciting to not only present her thought-provoking work, but also to see it in conversation with the many treasures of the museum’s Asian art collection. It’s a fitting way to celebrate the museum’s legacy in Seattle as we embark on a renovation and expansion project that will bring this jewel of a building into the 21st century and protect the collection for generations to come.”

Tabaimo: Utsutsushi Utsushi takes over the Tateuchi Galleries in the museum’s south wing. On view are eight video installations by the artist, including four previously existing works and four created specifically for the exhibition. In Tabaimo’s surreal, subversive, and darkly humorous video installations, thousands of her hand-drawn images are brought to life. Contrasting the past with the present, the works meld traditional imagery and elements with references to contemporary Japanese comics and animation.

The exhibition centers on the Japanese tradition of utsushi, which refers to copying or emulating a master artist’s work as a way to understand their style and technique. Utsutsushi is a word created by Tabaimo that can mean to make an utsushi or the state of having been utsushi’d. In adjacent galleries to Tabaimo’s utsushi are paintings, prints, and furnishings from SAM’s collection that inspired the artist, including beloved works such as Katsushika Hokusai’s woodblock prints and the early 17th-century ink-and-gold Crows screens.

With Two, a new work created by Tabaimo for this exhibition, video is projected onto a translucent screen placed behind a set of 16th-century Chinese huanghuali wood cabinets. Tabaimo saw the cabinets as “twins” when she encountered them; the silhouette created by her video reveals a new set of illusory twins to the real “twin” cabinets.

“Utsushi could be described as a spirit that tries to bind things together,” says Tabaimo. “When people are able to form connections across time and space, they are able to do things they couldn’t on their own. That modern people like me are able to make utsushi is in large part because of institutions like the Seattle Art Museum that have protected artists’ work from the past down to the present. With this exhibition, I want to think about how my life is being impacted by my predecessors and by the time we live in.”

The exhibition marks the second featuring a guest curator made possible by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in Seattle. Offered in support of programs and initiatives in Asian art, the grant previously allowed SAM to present Paradox of Place: Contemporary Korean Art (October 31, 2015–March 13, 2016), the first exhibition of Korean contemporary art in Seattle in a decade.

Tabaimo was born in 1975 in Hyogo, Japan. She represented Japan at the 54th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia, in 2011. She has had solo exhibitions at the San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, CA (2016); the Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia, Sydney (2014); Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art, London (2010); Yokahama Museum of Art, Tokyo (traveled to the National Museum of Art, Osaka) (2009-10); Moderna Museet, Stockholm (2009); Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris (2006); Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo (2006). International group exhibitions include: the Yokohama Triennale (2001); the Sao Paolo Biennale (2002); the 15th Biennale of Sydney, Australia (2006); and the 52nd International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia (2007). Tabaimo has collaborated with Ohad Naharin from Batsheva Dance Company, choreographer Maki Morishita, architect Yuko Nagayama, and artist Hiroshi Sugimoto.

Tabaimo’s work can be found in the collections of the National Museum of Art, Osaka; Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; the Israel Museum, Jerusalem; MUSAC, Spain; Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA; San Jose Museum of Art, CA; Asia Society Museum, New York, NY and the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY

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