seraphin gallery, philadelphia, art gallery, fine art, contemporary art, Hiro Sakaguchi
"I am interested in making an object which contains a fictional realm that is relevant to my experience as an artist and an individual. I depict images gathered from my everyday experience and memory. Because of my background, growing up in Japan and residing now in the U.S., elements of my images often come from experiences from both places. By depicting those autobiographical elements from memory and everyday life, I am after a story in which I myself would like to dwell. I am after the emotion I associate with those images."
From Adenine, Guanine, Cystosine, Thymine
Preparation for Spring
Hiro Sakaguchi on His Work
Hiro Sakaguchi, Seraphin Gallery, Philadelphia Museum of Fine Art
Night Kitchen Interactive, Philadelphia, PA
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA
Woodmere Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA
By Annette Monniei
June 28, 2015
By Edith Newhall
Seraphin Gallery smartly asked one of its artists, Hiro Sakaguchi, to organize a summer show.
The result, “Debris,” was likely initially inspired by the work of two other Seraphin artists, Joan Wadleigh Curran, who paints still lifes of debris she finds in Philadelphia, and Kelly Wallace, an artist based in London, Ontario, whose pencil drawings depict real and imagined landscapes that appear composed of mountains of rubble and houses in the process of ruination. But with the additions of Brent Wahl, Sherif Habashi, and himself, Sakaguchi offers a broader view of the stuff that piles up, including memories.
Wadleigh Curran’s four paintings, all from 2015, show her using more colors together, painting more expressionistically, and portraying odder perspectives of windblown trash.
I’d seen Wahl’s photographs of debris arranged on black surfaces before (they’re all from 2012), but they certainly belong in this show. His careful organizations of the trash and refuse he finds and collects at various sites in the city elevate these castoffs to a mysterious beauty.
At first, Sherif Habashi’s calligraphic paintings on paper struck me as the least debris-related of the works in this show, because his lines are so delicate and reminiscent of Sufi painting. But the expressionistic doodles he paints also have something in common with hobo symbols and graffiti. And his faint Self-portrait with cinderblock motif looks like an impression, something left behind.
Sakaguchi’s paintings hadn’t ever made me think specifically of debris until I saw his painting and drawing in this show, both titled Preparation for Spring. In both, what appear to be cherry trees wrapped in burlap waiting to be planted are plonked atop an urban landscape reduced to a rubble of infrastructure that includes children’s toys. It suggests a child’s memory of an event as revisited years later in a nightmare. The atmosphere is Pepto-Bismol pink, thick with dust, and undoubtedly toxic.
Though tiny and rendered in pencil, Wallace’s similarly ominous drawing of imploding row-houses, Sticks nstones, also seems to have emanated from a child’s view of a long-ago event.
Sunday, October 14, 2012
By Edith Newhall
By DoN Brewer
By Edith Newhall
By Robin Rice
By Shaun Brady
Friday, September 25, 2009
By Victoria Donohoe
Hiro Sakaguchi catches us off guard.
One moment, he could pass for an underground comic-book artist. The next moment, his paintings are being taken seriously by persons usually tuned in only to the higher reaches of artistic culture.
In Sakaguchi's exhibit "Idle Daydreams," at Seraphin Gallery, his rare combination of talents is on full view. Here's a Japanese-born local artist choosing unusual subject matter, yet portraying it with traditional forms.
Images in his work range from startlingly expansive to quite intimate, and they convey continuity with the past while embracing the present - all in the same picture.
Airplanes have fascinated Sakaguchi since his early childhood in Japan, and again now that he lives near Philadelphia International Airport.
This show's main airplane subject, poised between beatitude and anguish, is the Bear Fishing scene, so appealing and outdoorsy. It also is seemingly tranquil, until you realize that the "salmon" swimming upstream and caught as it leaps the waterfall by the bear is actually a modern-day passenger airliner.
Also, there are frequent war-image references throughout the display, most notably in Great Wall. It portrays an old Soviet armored tank, a Humvee with rocket launcher, a Civil War battalion, and a da Vinci tank - all actively trying to destroy the Chinese wall protecting a distant house.
Sakaguchi's mix of memory and fantasy in his art takes its cue from boredom he felt as a child. "I am trying to recapture what I was never able to do as a child with the means I have now," he said.
Having successfully achieved works that are visually compelling and at times conceptually disturbing, Sakaguchi now faces the challenge of moving beyond it.
October 21, 2009
By Holly Otterbein
Like the Brothers Grimm fairy tales, Hiro Sakaguchi's paintings in the exhibit "Idle Daydream" invoke a complex, knotty fear — one that cleverly layers horror in between preciousness, childlike innocence and pastel colors. "People read my work as scary," says Sakaguchi. "Scary like a tiny stuffed bear holding a knife."
Take Bear Fishing (pictured), in which the Japanese-born local artist paints a dozen airplanes paddling eagerly upstream like fish, while being ripped in half by a Godzilla-size bear. Meanwhile, a rainbow glows in the right-hand corner, it's a beautiful day out, and a few tourists look onto the scene, seemingly unfazed. Does the scary-pretty piece comment on overpopulation? Globalism gone wild? Nature eventually swallowing man whole? Or is it simply about the fear of planes?
Kinda? "That idea came from a nature show, where salmon, after they grow up, returned to where they were born to lay eggs," says Sakaguchi, who moved to Philly 18 years ago. "And they go through all that trouble to get home only to be eaten by bears. I started associating the salmon with myself, when I take a plane to go back to my home, Japan."
Planes pop up frequently in Sakaguchi's works, which, in addition to his trips to Japan, may have something to do with the fact that he often watches the horizon speckle with them from his home near the Philadelphia International Airport. In School of Pinwheel Airplanes, there's such a critical mass of planes that the scene appears warlike. But, as usual, the chaos is inconsistent: The sky is bubbly blue, and the townhouses below the planes are unscathed.
Tying all this cutesiness and terror together is Sakaguchi's greatest talent — his disarming painting style, which is modest, youthful and akin to comic-book illustrations. "When you're a child, you're drawing your imagination onto paper, so you try to be as clear in your drawing as possible," he says. "My work is ethereal, so I try to do the same thing and paint as simply as I can."
By Nicholas Hayes
Terrorism has entered into popular culture. The fear that the acts and anticipation of potential violence remains palpable but fades into the background of a media-saturated culture where the Twin Towers' collapsing, the horrifying beauty of shock and awe bombing and the charming Geico gecko, have equal shares of our attention as they are perpetually repeated. These concerns seem to be principle in the "Useless Weapons" group exhibition at the Green Lantern. In "Useless Weapons", Green Lantern Director Caroline Picard and Philadelphia painter Hiro Sakaguchi have assembled paintings and installations from Chicago and Philadelphia to explore this theme.
Sakaguchi's paintings hover between a lyrical reading of reality and an obsession with the fantasy of war play. In his "USS New Jersey", the watery acrylic bleeds through the abrupt sketches of hands. The making of a model is shown juxtaposed to battleships at the docks. The equation contains is efficient and objective, neither condemning nor glorifying the innate violence in war play. This ambiguity, this ambivalence, is even more evident in "Puling Tank." Here the tension between play and reality is taut as a rhinoceros beetle and a tank engage in a tug of war across a minimal canvas damasked with a pale purple and green.
Konichiwa, Philadelphia. This week's entry highlights the Seraphin Gallery's current exhibition of the works of Japanese-Philadelphian Hiro Sakaguchi, a young drawer/painter whose work self-purportedly aims to render “a fictional realm that is relevant to [his] experience as an artist and an individual in this global society.”
Sakaguchi was born in Nagano, grew up in Tokyo, and during his twenties came to America to pursue scholarship in the fine arts. A resident of Philadelphia since 1990, he obtained a Bachelor's degree from The University of the Arts and a Master's from The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, developing a style which reflects influences of Western academia and Japanese animation in both technique and subject matter.
Sakaguchi's raw, unfinished renderings in watercolor and graphite impart a distinct sense of fleeting observation, often devoting attention to mundane subjects in a way which may invoke an aesthetic sensibility of traditional painting and poetry. At the same time, Sakaguchi creates a dreamlike, fictional atmosphere by presenting an unexpected arrangement of familiar objects. Amidst common streetscapes, buses motor along inverted roads in the sky, planes flow in a congested stream with a lighthearted meander, and a giant airship hovers over town in apparent celebration – a Final Fantasy-esque speculative fiction grounded in provocative observations of the non-fictional world. Neither overtly admiring nor condemning, these dreamlike visions of speculative landscapes are given merit by their seemingly innocent mode of observation.
In addition to his dabbling in speculative fiction, Sakaguchi is known for drawing from memory a sense of nostalgia that pervades much of his work – the Seraphin Gallery exhibit “A Traveler's Tale” aims to depict his Japanese-American journey in a way which reveals a longing for times and places now passed by. In A Pinwheel Spins, a pink pinwheel sits in the center of an otherwise colorless page and evokes both the children's toy of 19th century America and the shapes of traditional Japanese origami. In two corners of the page, gentle streetscapes are rendered in graphite – in the top left, a couple strolls peacefully past homes identifiably Japanese in structure, while in the bottom right, cars roll by a lofty building in an ostensibly Western locale. Sakaguchi's delicate rendering of these two contrasting settings suggests a desire to be in both places at once – a desire then confronted by the realization that the only object capable of such omnipresence is the pinwheel, which could be seen as a symbol for time or transience.
These works by Sakaguchi have been widely appreciated through over 25 exhibitions in the past ten years and will surely be well received at the Seraphin Gallery exhibit “A Traveler's Tale,” open from September 7 until October 7, 2007. Do not miss this opportunity for aesthetic enjoyment and insight into the Japanese-American experience made all the more intimate by its specificity to the city of Philadelphia. Often recognized for its sensitivity to place, Sakaguchi's work reflects an experience widely affected by a life spent between Philadelphia and Japan – of particular interest for its artistic insights into Japan-America globalization, and more specifically, its fresh bi-cultural presentation of life in Philadelphia.