Avert, Escape, or Cope With
Hiro Sakaguchi's vibrant and complex paintings, drawings, sculpture, and videos reflect issues of environment, ecology, science, world history, peace, conflict, and popular culture. Sakaguchi describes how, "Models, toys, and games from childhood often appear in my works. They emerge out of my memory of this time in my life and give me the initial inspiration to make something. I would like to explore now what wasn't possible for me then. This innocent point of departure lets me get at the heart of more current topics and adult concerns of the greater populace."
Maiza Hixson, the DCCA's Gretchen Hupfel Curator of Contemporary Art and Acting Associate Director for Programs, explains that the title of Sakaguchi's exhibition references the artist's interest in Hollywood disaster films in which a protagonist must "avert, escape, or cope with" the calamity presented. Images of war, fire, volcanoes, hurricanes, vortexes, and explosions pervade his artworks, reflecting his association with images from the web and television broadcasting of recent natural and human-made disasters. In the painting Gazing Fire, houses, detached propellers, spacecraft, and other debris form the backdrop to a central blaze or bonfire that dominates the canvas. A discarded teddy bear appears off to the side, signifying childhood play interrupted by harmful natural forces.
According to Hixson, the theme of heat also surfaces in Sakaguchi's sculpture. Boat with Hibachi Engine features a copper stove installed in a miniature wooden vessel. Hibachi translates to "fire bowl" in Japanese; in North America, the term "hibachi" refers to a small cooking stove heated by charcoal or an iron hot plate. The combination of the Hibachi grill and Budweiser cans that litter the hull allude to the artist's Japanese heritage informed by several years of living in America and, by extension, its consumer culture.
The artist's Spool Tanks installation features enlarged versions of a familiar children's toy as ersatz battleships. In his video Unmanned Ground Vehicle, spool tanks appear in miniature. Continuing the play army and gender wars motifs, Sakaguchi and his collaborator and wife, artist Anne Canfield, perform in the video wearing blue and pink camouflage. The two sit across from each other rolling a tank at one another. The video cuts to an oversized version of the self-propelled spool tank set in motion. Wearing arm badges with symbols of peace and love, Sakaguchi and Canfield place flowers in the barrel of the spool tank gun, salute the camera, and march off the set.
Sakaguchi was born in Nagano, Japan and grew up in Chiba City, near Tokyo. He moved to the United States in the 1990s to study art at the University of the Arts (BFA) and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (MFA). He has had over 40 solo and group exhibitions at various venues, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Secession Museum in Austria, the Mori Museum in Tokyo, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma in Helsinki.
Sakaguchi has also exhibited at the PULSE Contemporary Art Fair in Miami and the Melbourne Art Fair in Australia, both with Tokyo's Mizuma Art Gallery. He is represented by Seraphin Gallery in Philadelphia and Galerie Heubner & Heubner in Frankfurt. Artworks by Sakaguchi can be found in both public and private collections internationally, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Woodmere Art Museum.
Hiro Sakaguchi discusses his exhibition Avert, Escape, or Cope With at Art Salad on Thursday, December 4, at 12 noon in the DCCA Auditorium.