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On view August 30, 2014–January 4, 2015
Bright blue lines crawl up and down, left and right, straight and curved, haphazardly and methodically. They run on the walls, the ceiling, the floor, and even into the space beyond the door, invading the hallway. As we realize that the blue lines are actually plastic toy rail tracks, we become aware of other elements—toy cranes, small animal figures, Styrofoam mountains, pasture-like paper patches, and white sands. Our perception suddenly shifts from the abstracted network of lines to the tangible reality of the miniature world. However, we soon notice that the rail tracks do not really function as tracks for running trains—in fact, there are no trains. The rail tracks abruptly stop and circle around, and the recognizable miniature world is now disintegrated and abstracted again.
Meticulously designed and crafted using toy rail tracks and other materials, paramodelic-graffiti is a site-specific work by Paramodel, an art collaborative based in Kansai, Japan. Established in 2001 by two former college classmates, Yasuhiko Hayashi (born in 1971) and Yusuke Nakano (born in 1976), Paramodel’s diverse body of work encompasses photography, painting, sculpture, video, and site-specific installation. First conceived in 2004, the large paramodelic-graffiti installation represents the essence of the complex and fantastical world of the two versatile artists. UMMA has commissioned a new installation of the popular work for Paramodel’s first exhibition in the United States.
There are many aspects of Paramodel’s work that resemble children’s play. In paramodelic-graffiti, the artists draw inspiration especially from the open-endedness of how children play—the way in which a block construction or a chalk drawing can infinitely expand as long as time, energy, and resources permit. When the work is installed at venues near the artists’ home bases and at artist residencies, they take the concept even further. After the opening of a group exhibition at the National Museum of Art, Osaka, in 2011, Hayashi and Nakano continued to add more parts and rail tracks to the installation of paramodel-graffiti, commuting from their homes nearby. Even when there are time constraints, the artists try to leave the impression of a work still being “under construction” by extending toy train tracks into the exterior of a gallery space, as seen in UMMA’s presentation, for example.
Although Paramodel’s images are drawn from Japanese popular culture, their art historical references are more diverse. Borrowing strategies from Dada, Surrealism, and Pop Art, the work places pop culture images and found objects in unexpected juxtapositions. As an enormous site-specific “drawing,” paramodelic-graffiti is specifically indebted to the development of American art post-World War II, from Jackson Pollock’s all-over painting and Abstract Expressionism to Color Field Painting and Minimalism. The artists describe the work as “a gigantic drawing and simultaneously an ‘object d’art’ because of the thickness and shapes of [the rail tracks]. It could also be a diorama model or just a kid’s messy play. Or graffiti. It moves indecisively between various realms.” In the gallery space, viewers are invited to immerse themselves in the different realms of discovery and surprise that Paramodel has carefully laid out.
Associate Curator of Asian Art
CLICK HERE to view photos of the exhibition, updated daily throughout the installation process.
Friday, October 10, 7pm–10pm
The University of Michigan Museum of Art invites you to join us for an evening of art, music, and exploration. Drop in during this free community event to discover the permanent collections galleries and new special exhibitions including a remarkable collection of photographic portraits of artists by artists such as Ansel Adams, Arnold Newman, and Manuel Álvarez Bravo; a playful installation by Japanese art collaborative Paramodel; a visually striking and thought-provoking film by Amie Siegal that traces in reverse the global trade in modernist furniture; and the last in a series of three consecutive exhibitions featuring Michigan architects. Enjoy live music by Dave Sharp’s Secret 7, who masterfully blends rhythms, sounds, and textures of jazz and world music from around the globe. This performance of “World Jazz” music will feature Dan Bennet and Tim Haldeman on saxophones, Dave Sharp on upright and electric bass, Igor Houwat on oud, Elden Kelly on guitar, cümbü, and Glissentar, and Alina Mor on keyboards. Curators’ conversations and light refreshments round out the event.
UMMA After Hours is generously sponsored by Fidelity Investments.
Sunday, October 26, 7pm–9pm
Riffing off an interest in boundary-crossing art and ideas of play in UMMA’s exhibition of the contemporary Japanese art collective Paramodel, director Mark Kirschenmann leads some of the best past and current members of the illustrious improvisation-based Creative Arts Orchestra as they turn musical expectations inside out.
The SMTD@UMMA performance series is made possible in part by the Katherine Tuck Enrichment Fund.
Lead support for this exhibition is provided by the University of Michigan Office of the President, Office of the Provost, and Center for Japanese Studies, the Japan Foundation, and the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation. Additional generous support is provided by the University of Michigan Credit Union, the Herbert W. and Susan L. Johe Endowment, and Taubman College of Architecture + Urban Planning.
Second image from top: Paramodel, rolling tommy sushi, 2009, mini cars, sushi sample dishes (64 pieces), Private collection, ©paramodel