Within the contemporary world, boundaries which define natural and artificial have become increasingly obfuscated, and seem to bend at the slightest will. Coming to an understanding of this relationship seems fraught with entangling associations, and compel one into a series of convoluted negotiations. Through several series of new works including works on paper, small figure vignettes, and the large-scale abstracted sculptures for which she is perhaps most well-known, artist Misako Inaoka thoughtfully and creatively engages with these ideas in her solo show, “Fractured Fauna” at Oakland’s Johansson Projects.
Inaoka’s new series of sculptures in their many manifestations throughout the show, from hanging prized upholstered trophy heads to smaller head-pieces clustered on the walls, and larger figures that command the middle of each gallery space, may be collectively described as thoughtful interpretations of ambiguous, writhing creatures blossoming into being, cloaked in various materials that range from glittery fabrics to patterned upholstery and even in one instance a collaged collection of carefully cut feral eyes. This unclear process of metamorphosis is locked in a state of eternal unfolding, but never fully decipherable into which, animal or object, it plans to become. In some of her new pieces, Inaoka seems to have reversed the process of her usual practice, where the taxidermy form shows usually reveals signs of the natural with its curvilinear form of a backbone, or the stalwart musculature of a neck, and nimble but fragile legs and suggestion of hooves, while the fabric in which it is covered might illustrate the artificial with its heavy flocked patterning and synthetic dyes. In these perhaps atypical or new works, like “Shoe Creature” and “Basket” the plasticity of the form itself is aggrandized as it is either swathed in woven fibers or covered in furs, with selections of the form left uncovered. Their vulnerability lies exposed through toothless agape mouths and sunken eyeless sockets. The captivating surrealism of these creatures rests upon their refusal to neither formally or conceptually resolve themselves, both individually and as a group or species.
These concepts and practices carry on to the framed works on paper and the especially intriguing row of small sculpture vignettes on view along the periphery of the gallery space. Although these smaller works are not as ostentatious in their design or commanding in scale, and may not attract the attention that other larger sculptures will in their niche off to the side of the space, it would be remiss not to spend the time carefully following the suite of works along the perimeter of the gallery space, carefully inspecting each peculiar situation and creature Inaoka has delicately fashioned. “The nature I notice survives in different forms, by adapting, adjusting and mutating to its new urban setting,” begins Inaoka in her artist statement. “I emphasize the subtle details of surviving nature and exaggerate their illogicality to cultivate my own version of invented creatures and landscapes. My world is not a creation of total imagination, but is a projection of the reality in an absurd form.”
Misako Inaoka, “Fractured Fauna” will be at Johansson Projects, 2300 Telegraph Ave. through October 18, 2014