by D. Dominick Lombardi
In a far room, in one of the many spaces at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art can be found the sometimes explosive and other times sublime art of Ushio Shinohara. Boxing Painter (2011), the first piece you encounter even before you enter the space immediately sends your thoughts through dynamic expressions, inventive techniques and fantastical fantasies. Using color-loaded boxing gloves, as he has done in the 1960s and again since 1991, Shinohara marks his territory like a predator marks its ground. After pounding the surface of the canvas with dripping blotches of black paint, Shinohara adds to the middle of the composition a piece of his previously painterly boxing glove. This fragment, which appears on the right hand of an aggressively and expressively drawn boxer, is bordered by vibrantly painted torn paper that further enlivens the overt movement in this work.
Walk around the wall that Boxing Painter rests upon and the space opens up to a room filled with the art of someone who can be characterized as a bit showman who is part performance artist, and part Pop protagonist – an individual who has put everything, including himself, into his art in order to make his ideas and emotions come to life.
Ushio Shinohara, Motorcycle Oiran Kanzashi (installation view), 1988, Cardboard, acrylic, metal, polyester resin, 49 x 45 x 28 inches; Photo: Reiko Tomii.
Additionally, one has to assume, when looking at the extraordinary biker sculpture Motorcycle Oiran Kanzashi (1988), my daughter’s favorite Coca-Cola Delivery Frog (2011), or the flamboyant drawings such as Spider-Man at the Poolside (1979) and A Floating SoHo Bathhouse (1985), that Shinohara was and is aware of the equally outrageous art of Red Grooms, or the oft times wicked work of Peter Saul. However, Shinohara’s iconography is much more of a mix between the high energy of the New York City megalopolis and the traditional, albeit highly emotional and mythical beings found in ancient Japanese woodblock prints, some of which are exhibited here.
What I find to be of particular note is the way in which Shinohara handles his far more distilled compositions. Still referencing the traditional Japanese art forms, Shinohara has an innate sense of design, and an overwhelming beautiful approach to shape and pattern. Using relatively flat fluorescent and lacquer paints that are both warm and cool, combined with black and white areas that further define the subject, Shinohara leaves us with volumes of information that is as directly and as purely articulated as any great poet. Upon closer inspection of works like Kite (1967) or Samurai Sword (1967), some may notice skillfully cut and applied color acrylic fragment sheets that enhance both the graphic nature of the work, as well as the depth of his thinking.
Meiji Fujikura, Ushio Shinohara’s Boxing Painting (1960); © 1960 Akiharu Meiji Fujikura.
Curated by Hiroko Ikegami with Reiko Tomii, Shinohara Pops! The Avant-Garde Road, Tokyo/New York is at the Samuel Dorsky Museum on the campus of SUNY New Paltz through December 16th, 2012.
Ushio Shinohara – one of Japan’s greatest imports. Don’t miss it!
—D. Dominick Lombardi
(Image on top: Ushio Shinohara, Boxing Painter, 2011, Acrylic, charcoal, and paper on composite canvas with section of boxing glove, 67.5 X 102.5 inches; Courtesy of the artist and Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art / Photo © Gilbert Plantinga.)