Kohei Nawa “Aether”

Pace Gallery (540 W 25th St.)

poster for Kohei Nawa “Aether”
[Image: Kohei Nawa "Black Field #8" (2022) ©Kohei Nawa, courtesy Pace Gallery. Photo by Nobutada OMOTE | Sandwich.]

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Pace presents an exhibition of new and recent work by Kohei Nawa at its 540 West 25th Street gallery in New York. Titled Aether and on view from September 16 to October 22, the exhibition—featuring sculptures, paintings, and mixed media works—marks Nawa’s first solo presentation with Pace in New York.

Through his multidisciplinary practice, Nawa explores scientific and digital phenomena, focusing on the perceptual possibilities of his works. The title of his latest exhibition with Pace has multiple associations: the air and sky, the universes beyond the Earth, and the Greek mythological deity Aether. Enactments of ethereality and weightlessness are central to the works in the presentation, which achieve these ends by way of their varied material makeups and sensory effects. Coursing through the exhibition is a rejection of binaries between human and non-human beings and living and non-living entities.

Among the highlights of Aether is Nawa’s new sculpture Trans-Sacred Deer (p/gn_cloud) (2022), which originated from 3D modeling system data and was constructed using traditional techniques and materials such as woodcarving, lacquer, and platinum leaf. The shinroku deer depicted in the work references the Kasuga Shinroku Shari Zushi sculpture, which has been an enduring source of inspiration for Nawa and is believed to have been created between Japan’s Kamakura period and Northern and Southern Dynasties period.

PixCell-Bambi#24 (Aurora) (2021), from Nawa’s PixCell sculpture series, figures prominently in the exhibition. The work features transparent spheres, or cells, covering its surface. These cells transform and distort viewers’ perceptions of the form beneath—a visual phenomenon that speaks to the impact of digital technologies on individuals’ relationships to the physical world.
Works from the artist’s Rhythm series reflect the aesthetic concerns of his PixCell sculptures. These pieces, a selection of which are included in Aether, feature combinations of variously sized wood spheres covered in velvet. The placements of these spheres across two-dimensional planes suggest otherworldly movement and energy.

The exhibition also includes Ether#83 (2022), a mixed media sculpture based on 3D modeling of a highly viscous liquid in various stages of descent. Informed by photographs of droplets in motion and the artist’s in-person observations of poured liquids, the columnar sculpture features a sequence of undulating, variously shaped protrusions, serving as a visual exploration of the effects of gravity and anti-gravity.

A work from Nawa’s new Fountain sculpture series will be presented in Aether. This mixed media sculpture depicts layered, bountiful tableaus of plants, flowers, fungi, and other biomorphic, organic forms. Coated with micro-beads, the sculpture is produced using hand-drawn sketches and 3D programming. This work is presented in conversation with Nawa’s new three-dimensional, velvet-coated, figurative sculpture Trans-A and Trans-E (2022), which upends conventional modes of portraiture in its merging of human and extraterrestrial characteristics.
Aether will also feature a selection of Nawa’s Blue Seed works, for which the artist uses UV lasers to irradiate the surfaces of translucent panels, producing generative images of cross sections of plant seeds and ovules. The blue hues of these works are reflected in the abstract painting Moment#147 (2020), which is created using airbrush and ink.

Paintings from the artist’s Black Field series comprise a mixture of black oil paint on wooden panel. Applied in thick layers, the paint will gradually oxidize and harden over the course of the exhibition’s run, yielding new textures and formations as chemical interactions take place. Drawings from Nawa’s new Plotter series, also on view in Aether, feature lines created by an autonomous, programmed device with ballpoint and thin brush pens. Subtle differences between each of these abstract works reflect the unpredictable results of machine-based systems.

Nawa’s ongoing solo exhibition at the Towada Art Center in Japan coincides with his solo presentation with Pace in New York. The artist’s VESSEL performance, a collaboration with choreographer Damien Jalet, will be staged at the Torinodanza Festival in Turin, Italy, in September 2022 and at La Filature in Mulhouse, France, in January 2023.

Kohei Nawa (b. 1975, Osaka, Japan) is a multidisciplinary artist whose diverse practice explores the perception of virtual and physical space and probes the borders between nature and artificiality. He examines relationships between the individual and the whole, illustrating how parts aggregate together, like cells, to create complex and dynamic structures. His work spans painting, drawing, sculpture, and installation, as well as various facets of design and collaborative projects through his Kyoto-based studio, SANDWICH. Nawa’s use of synthetic compounds underscores a recurring theme wherein materials such as polyurethane foam, translucent beads, ink, paint, glue, and silicone oil become devices that prompt an awareness of our mediated environment.



from September 16, 2022 to October 22, 2022


Kohei Nawa

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