SOCKS by Eishi Takaoka @ G2 (Giant Robot) Gallery

October 12, 2016

I have spoken before about the need for the mastery of technique to be controlled and directed in a righteous manner; that the artist should not be mired and contented with their mastery of a craft. It is simply a higher form of onanism, then, which does not reveal anything spiritually significant to the audience which the artist is expressing himself to, and instead is but a demonstration of what a human can possibly do with themselves. We might then classify such artistry, of doing something for its very sake, as expanding the bounds of human inventiveness, which may perhaps ultimately serve indirectly to propel an artist’s own creativity to reach the highest aim of the pursuit.

Takaoka no doubt is sensational in his craftsmanship of wood. We may overlook the superbly impeccably gentle skin on the face of the androgynous figurine within each of the nearly 20 pieces. We also can overlook the stunning lack of uneven or unleveled carving which may disturb our eyesight, disrupting the beauty of the piece itself. Of course, we must make some expectations of the flawlessness of any work that is formally being exhibited, but it nevertheless is something that has to be appreciated. The colors, then, so subtle and delicate rather than loud and biting, don’t jar the eye, but actually, function to serve the purpose of each installment – which is to bring in the subject of the story being told.

The stories do exist. Every installment is depicting one. It ranges from the cute to the slightly abstract. So then the artist is clearly making a statement, and not simply demonstrating his exercises in craftsmanship. To which case, it is viable and open to criticize the quality of the intentions involved. And in this sense, it is quite disappointing. Takaoka is trying to express moments in time of his own humanity, in gratefully a playful manner. He is trying to capture, through his wood-carving, emotional representations of these moments. But perhaps it is the constraints of the medium involved which make it very difficult to add significant layers of symbolism. With Toothbrush, for instance, the figurine feels to represent a loathsome participation in dental hygiene. But that is open to interpretation, and it is very difficult to abstract anything else out of that piece, other than its visual appeal – it would fit well in a dental office, but as a consideration of fine art, it is kitsch.

But this is a very stringent qualification of what kitsch is. What makes Thomas Kincaid the commercial prince of darkness of the art world was his intentional mass production of aesthetic monotony. It required no skill in any shape or manner, other than in developing a new business model for selling graphics. It is clearly insulting to Takaoka’s work to treat it at the same level, however, it is still important to diagnose where this kind of art fits into the aesthetic universe. It is commonplace to find beautiful and original concepts brought into being, as what is displayed here. But the rare is found in finding such efforts that also elevate a human being to a new perspective of reality, to bring spiritual fulfillment in engaging with a benevolent expression of the world.

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