Paintings, videos challenge our expectations of art
Yui Kugimiya uses her paintings to create stop-motion animation. It’s an eye-catching form, stilted but compelling, like William Kentridge’s animated films made with drawings and erasures. But Kentridge, a South African, touches on issues of violence, oppression, and accountability, and Kugimiya, raised in Japan and educated here, takes on lighter themes, populating her stories with cats and birds. Her show of paintings and videos is at Carroll and Sons.
It’s enchanting work, and not simply because it’s cute, which fits a particular aesthetic in Japanese contemporary art. Kugimiya’s expressionistic painting style gives surprising weight to her narrative, engaging in an art-history discourse and questioning our expectations of art.
In the video “Cat Moshimoshi,’’ a yellow-eyed gray tomcat smokes a cigarette, then answers the phone, and has a conversation in Japanese. Everything appears fluid and malleable, painted in broad strokes, but with charmingly subtle variations as the cat’s eyes and head move. Colors change. Ultimately, he puts the phone down and walks right off the canvas onto another one, which is covered in glitter, where he turns and looks directly at the viewer.
The diptych painting “Cat Moshimoshi’’ hangs around the corner. One canvas - the one upon which most of the stop-motion frames were painted - is covered with built-up black paint. Traces are recognizable: a wisp of smoke, a dot of green from the phone. A document of the animation process, it now becomes an art object in conjunction with the bright adjoining panel, featuring the last image from the video.
A process document is not always going to measure up, perhaps especially when you’re working in oil paint, because we expect an oil painting to present a deliberate image, formed with care by the artist (a drawing, which might be a preparatory sketch, has less loaded expectations attached). Kugimiya makes a satisfying challenge to that mindset. She also has paintings here that don’t lead to animations. They’re deliciously sloppy, gridded works, an expressionist’s retort to the clean lines of modernism. “Caged Cage’’ looks almost plaid, with juicy brushstrokes interleaving beneath a grid of yarn strung taut over the canvas.
Also at Carroll and Sons, Adam Lampton’s thoughtful, moody color photographs of Macao, a rising gambling mecca, contrast the Chinese territory’s roots with where it’s headed. “Grand Lisboa Casino Under Construction’’ shows a gaudy, sparkly, mirrored dome. Across the gallery hangs “Mahjong Parlor,’’ a view inside a small, scruffy gambling house. It’s a long exposure, so the few men in the frame blur over their tiles. The shrine at the back of the room features a crisp, red draped statue of a figure who seems to look straight across at the Grand Lisboa Casino and read his unhappy fate.
“Bathroom Hallway,’’ for instance, appears to conflate those two places. A garish orange shower curtain dominates the end of the truncated hallway, in which several framed pictures hang. I love those pictures, and their suggestion of worlds within worlds. “Backyard Barn’’ jumbles up space, so the barn appears to fracture toward the bottom into several planes of color, even as the chickens poke about in the dirt. There’s a loving hominess to these works that is wonderfully at odds with their chaotic sense of space.
Wood, who was born here but lives in Los Angeles, also threw in drawings and paintings of Boston sports cards and a
The central piece of the installation mimics a chart. In it, 250 nylon lines are strung from the ceiling and weighted down by tear-shaped, polished lead weights. The gel caps bob along at eye level. There’s a bell curve aspect, since the piece swells with more lines at the middle and tapers at the ends. It’s a lovely, ephemeral installation, with light glinting off the threads of fishing line and through the gel caps, and the weights cast polka-dot shadows on the floor.
In this and a few smaller pieces, the artists deploy the rubric of empirical investigation, but every choice in the installation’s making was an intuitive one. “They believed every word’’ holds the scientific method and the creative spark in a taut, pleasing balance.