As we died, we began to regain our spirit

Chiho Aoshima

Exhibition: Nov 16, 2006 – Jan 14, 2007

With her Artpace project, Chiho Aoshima further expands her ideas about the intricate relationships among nature, humans, mortality, and industry through a wall-mounted watercolor installation—a first for the artist.

As we died, we began to regain our spirit stretches across its forty-foot wall and extends from floor to ceiling. Referencing a centuries-old practice of decorative screen making in Japan, the patchwork of woven paper takes advantage of expansive vertical and horizontal space in depicting an idealized, untethered locale surrounded by otherworldly clouds.

The focus in this work is the resilience of nature in the face of a doomed, over-urbanized future, a recurrent theme in the artist’s work. Digitally distorted photographs of iconic San Antonio buildings populate the wall, their shapely “bodies” embedded with wide-eyed female faces. A wash of muted watercolors and colored pencil articulates lips and lashes to fluidly merge the human with the industrial. These womanly structures float among heavenly swaths of nature: swirls of vaporous vegetation roll into waves of water that gently support the spirited metropolis, alive with only the ghosts of civilization.

As we died, we began to regain our spirit reflects San Antonio’s cultural belief in the animated soul, but it more broadly suggests that despite the impending doom of cities as we know them, nature will continue to prosper. This persistence offers hope. While continuing to find value in the past, Chiho Aoshima’s work looks toward a complex future that remains beautifully balanced by the organic.

-Kate Green


Chiho Aoshima

Tokyo, Japan

Chiho Aoshima’s murals feature birds, flowers, ghosts, and demons colorfully infused with traditions of Japanese comics, animation, and landscape painting. Though deeply informed by art history, this fantasy world of desire and terror looks forward to a mechanized future envisioned through a 21st-century vocabulary of computer-generated imagery.
Aoshima draws on the expanse and tranquility found in historical Japanese scroll painting while permeating each image with contemporary elements including an abundance of female protagonists and stylistic references to manga (comic books). The digitally saturated archival paper of Magma Spirit Explodes Tsunami is Dreadful (2004) fills an entire wall. The titular doe-eyed character explodes with fiery energy, indifferent to a city nearby being ravaged by a watery disaster. Panoramic in scope, the work seems alive: feisty women fly in the background and flames appear to breathe. Aoshima’s use of color, symmetry, and anthropomorphism turns the apocalyptic into the cathartic, the chaotic into the calm, and the futuristic into a natural state of being.
Chiho Aoshima was born in Tokyo, Japan, in 1974 and continues to lives there. She received an economics degree from Hosei University, Tokyo, Japan, in 1995. She has had solo exhibitions at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, UK (2006); Musée d’Art Contemporain, Lyon, France (2006); and University of California, Berkeley Art Museum, CA (2003). Her work has been included in exhibitions such as Rising Sun, Melting Moon, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel (2006); Ecstasy: In and About Altered States, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA (2005); and Little Boy, Japan Society, New York, NY (2005).

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Tom Eccles

New York, NY

Tom Eccles is the Executive Director of Bard College’s Center for Curatorial Studies. Prior to that appointment, Eccles served as Director of the Public Art Fund, New York, NY since 1996. While at the Public Art Fund, Eccles defined new directions for the creation and installation of contemporary art in public spaces, organizing engaging exhibitions with artists such as Vito Acconci, Mark Dion, Christine Hill, Kim Sooja, Olav Westphalen, and former Artpace residents Teresita Fernández and Paul Pfeiffer. Eccles holds an MA in Philosophy and Italian from the University of Glasgow in Scotland and has lectured at colleges and universities throughout the United States.

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