It’s an interesting moment for artist Jacob Hashimoto. For nearly three decades, his kite-constructed works have captivated viewers with a fusion of meticulous hand-craftsmanship and the optical effect of digital pixels. His wall works often consist of six suspended layers of circular paper and bamboo “kites” that obscure as much as they reveal, shifting with every footstep. His newest exhibition The Disappointment Engine is a knock-out at Miles McEnery Gallery in New York, presenting 11 new works, including a massive wall-to-wall, cloud-like installation at the entrance.
Hashimoto was born in Colorado in 1973 and grew up in Walla Walla Washington, later graduating from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His father is Japanese-American and his mother is Irish-American. In a recent interview he spoke about the influence of his upbringing on his practice: “I’m half-Japanese and half European-American and having grown up Asian American – or at least half Asian-American – in a rural part of the United States definitely helped shape who I am as a person in ways that I think can’t help effect the way that I make my artwork. So my relationship with traditional materials and traditional Japanese handicraft, you know a lot of that stuff is a product of my relationship to Asian culture through the lens of being an American.”
Currently living and working in Ossining, New York, his work often reflects a fascination and re-imagining of “pixels,” influenced by 3D-computer modeling software, virtual environments, and video games – my favorite interview with him is this 6-minute video of him talking about the unexpected influence of Minecraft on a previous body of work. But beyond the digital references, these 11 new works find inspiration in “viruses, stained-glass windows, Atari circuit-board patterns, and leaf structures.” Through all the patterns and countless references and abstraction, there seems to be a general vibe that connects to our recent shared experiences of isolation, nature, computers, anxiety, connection, and a continual re-ordering of our daily routines. In short, Hashimoto’s work connects now more than ever.
A note about the entrance: This location of Miles McEnery Gallery requires visitors to walk up a half-dozen steps from the entrance door to the exhibition space of the gallery, making Hashimoto’s white wall-to-wall installation a draw, veil, and obstacle. It also primes you for the best way to interact with Hashimoto’s work: to move yourself around it. All of his “kites,” like real kites, are joyously activated with movement, but it’s not the wind that causes that – it’s you. Every step and every 1/2 inch shift of your position produces a hundred visual sparks.
My favorite works contain large sections of “empty” space. For example, in “The Rewind” and “Because I Shall not Know” (above), large white, yellow, or black sections still buzz and shift as you move. Best of all, there’s a clear “break” when the works are viewed off-center, fracturing and dissolving their own visual foundation. The effect makes “exiting” the work as joyous as approaching it, encouraging a continuous return to each experience.
Full of complexity, craftsmanship, object, aura, mystery, and joy, it’s an unmissable experience if you’re in New York this fall. Jacob Hashimoto: The Disappointment Engine, is on view at Miles McEnery Gallery in New York through October 21st.
What: Jacob Hashimoto: The Disappointment Engine
Where: Miles McEnery Gallery, 511 W 22nd St, New York, NY
When: September 7 – October 21, 2023
All images courtesy of the artist and Miles McEnery Gallery, New York