Konnichiwa, Philadelphia - Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia
Konnichiwa, Philadelphia. This week's entry highlights the Seraphin Gallery's current exhibition of the works of Japanese-Philadelphian Hiro Sakaguchi, a young drawer/painter whose work self-purportedly aims to render “a fictional realm that is relevant to [his] experience as an artist and an individual in this global society.”
Sakaguchi was born in Nagano, grew up in Tokyo, and during his twenties came to America to pursue scholarship in the fine arts. A resident of Philadelphia since 1990, he obtained a Bachelor's degree from The University of the Arts and a Master's from The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, developing a style which reflects influences of Western academia and Japanese animation in both technique and subject matter.
Sakaguchi's raw, unfinished renderings in watercolor and graphite impart a distinct sense of fleeting observation, often devoting attention to mundane subjects in a way which may invoke an aesthetic sensibility of traditional painting and poetry. At the same time, Sakaguchi creates a dreamlike, fictional atmosphere by presenting an unexpected arrangement of familiar objects. Amidst common streetscapes, buses motor along inverted roads in the sky, planes flow in a congested stream with a lighthearted meander, and a giant airship hovers over town in apparent celebration – a Final Fantasy-esque speculative fiction grounded in provocative observations of the non-fictional world. Neither overtly admiring nor condemning, these dreamlike visions of speculative landscapes are given merit by their seemingly innocent mode of observation.
In addition to his dabbling in speculative fiction, Sakaguchi is known for drawing from memory a sense of nostalgia that pervades much of his work – the Seraphin Gallery exhibit “A Traveler's Tale” aims to depict his Japanese-American journey in a way which reveals a longing for times and places now passed by. In A Pinwheel Spins, a pink pinwheel sits in the center of an otherwise colorless page and evokes both the children's toy of 19th century America and the shapes of traditional Japanese origami. In two corners of the page, gentle streetscapes are rendered in graphite – in the top left, a couple strolls peacefully past homes identifiably Japanese in structure, while in the bottom right, cars roll by a lofty building in an ostensibly Western locale. Sakaguchi's delicate rendering of these two contrasting settings suggests a desire to be in both places at once – a desire then confronted by the realization that the only object capable of such omnipresence is the pinwheel, which could be seen as a symbol for time or transience.
These works by Sakaguchi have been widely appreciated through over 25 exhibitions in the past ten years and will surely be well received at the Seraphin Gallery exhibit “A Traveler's Tale,” open from September 7 until October 7, 2007. Do not miss this opportunity for aesthetic enjoyment and insight into the Japanese-American experience made all the more intimate by its specificity to the city of Philadelphia. Often recognized for its sensitivity to place, Sakaguchi's work reflects an experience widely affected by a life spent between Philadelphia and Japan – of particular interest for its artistic insights into Japan-America globalization, and more specifically, its fresh bi-cultural presentation of life in Philadelphia.
Seraphin Gallery l Contemporary Philadelphia Art Gallery and Art Consultant
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