Jacob Hashimoto’s works converge traditional arts and modern abstraction

The multi-layered works of New York based Hashimoto invite the viewers to experience the play between light, shadow, and colour.

by Dilpreet Bhullar Published on : Jul 11, 2020

To witness a site of installation with a collection of kites by the artist Jacob Hashimoto could be (mis)taken as a world of magical realism moving in front of you. The kites that could be seen as an immediate physical manifestation of fragility come handy for the artist, who likes to play with the concepts of light, shadow and colour through his artworks. The aerially suspended installations with nylon threads allow the viewers to literally wander through them. Interestingly, walking through Hashimoto’s installations draw attention to the Japanese heritage and intricacies of the virtual environment, of which Hashimoto is taking due cognizance.

Infinite Expanse of the Sky, 2008-2009, Jacob Hashimoto | STIRworld
Infinite Expanse of the Sky, 2008-2009 Image Credit: Courtesy of Jacob Hashimoto

Lending a three-dimensional perspective to physical spaces, Hashimoto’s works not just defy the given spatial possibilities, but with motifs influenced by the bountiful nature, offer scope for time-travel to the utopian days of harmony in the ecosystem. Hashimoto briefly walks us through his journey from academic life in painting to the artist practicing 3D art with installation and sculptures, “In the mid-nineties, I studied painting and printmaking at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. During that time, I started making and flying kites as a hobby in Grant Park. Art school being what it is, you tend to have a lot of time to mess around, so I started spending more and more time building kites flying them in the park. Through this practice of teaching myself how to build kites, I ended up with about 40-50 of them. At some point, I realised that I could use them to expand the practice that I was already involved in, at the studio. By using these kite objects as almost a brush mark in three-dimensional space, I could build sculptural environments that were doing, in many ways, what I was trying to do with my paintings.”

Jacob Hashimoto’s self- portrait, Anna Weirzbicka| STIRworld
Jacob Hashimoto’s self- portrait Image Credit: Courtesy of Anna Weirzbicka

Interestingly, his installation works, despite having a mammoth dimension, carry a feeling of impermanence because of the material – rice paper, bamboo frames. This ephemerality is a deviation from the regular sculptural practitioners. Hashimoto explains further, “We use high-quality papers, and we do something a little bit odd. We soak the papers in clear acrylic, so by the time the papers dry they become 50% paint and 50% paper.  That process gives the material a lot more durability.  It is less changeable in the environment, it is easy to clean, all of those basic real-world concerns.  In terms of making a sculpture out of non-traditional materials, or what most people don’t consider as sculpture materials, it is unusual, but it suits our purpose perfectly. The artwork feels fragile and ephemeral, but it is not necessarily so structurally.”

The Eclipse, Venice Biennale, 2017, Jacob Hashimoto | STIRworld
The Eclipse, Venice Biennale, 2017 Image Credit: Courtesy of Jacob Hashimoto

Moreover, the interplay of light and shadow with the displays of the thousands of kites are nothing short of the laborious task that demands finesse of an expert coupled with experiential iterations. Hashimoto elucidates on the artistic processes and prospects of using paper when he says, “It allows me to play with light and the diaphanous quality of the paper membrane, to create these environments that are these undulating clouds of material. They are rigid objects but have a curtain-like tapestry effect. The reason the paper is necessary is that it can do things with light and space that you cannot do with bronze, for example. You can build massive structures out of it that are very light, so they can be housed in buildings without retro-fitting them. So structurally, to make something out of bronze that does what our artwork does, is essentially impossible. There would be no transparency and no kind of veiled quality of the paper as it moves through space. You could probably do it out of sheet metal, but you would get single opacity. With what we do, we get this tremendous nuance in the translucency of the material, as we build these very complicated cloud-like structures.”

Talking about the multi-layered works and immersive experience around it, Hashimoto says, “The art is a balance between the existing architecture and the interaction of the artwork with that architecture. I’m very interested in how people move through spaces, how they travel throughout the buildings where these installations are housed. Having studied painting and drawing, I know that what happens with a painting or a piece of 2D artwork is a static viewpoint. Your experience of that world that the artist has created is from a fixed position, a certain number of feet from the artwork. It changes as you move closer and further away, but it’s generally a very limited view. When you are dealing with sculpture or sculpture spaces, your body and eye's relationship to it is much more changeable and there are more variables involved. There is no one good vantage point to see it, so your importance as a participating member in the existence of this object is much more crucial.”  

Skyfarm Fortress, 2014, Jacob Hashimoto | STIRworld
Skyfarm Fortress, 2014 Image Credit: Courtesy of Jacob Hashimoto

Often, we hear discussions on finding a balance between traditional and modern arts, but seldom have artists been able to assure the same. Of this rare tribe is Hashimoto, whose works exemplify the traditional aesthetic sensibility laced with modern abstraction.

Willis Tower, 2019, Jacob Hashimoto | STIRworld
Willis Tower, 2019 Image Credit: Courtesy of Jacob Hashimoto

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