“Temporal Void” at Johansson Projects

by admin on January 2, 2014

Whether it is the crippling damage caused to cities and towns by natural disasters of winds, waters, or earth, or the encroachment of human development offsetting natural cycles, the human race and the earth’s natural elements have always endured a tumultuous relationship both necessary for survival and destructive to it. In this way, the places, spaces, and surrounding environs constantly in flux profoundly shape identities and memories, and create our histories: calendars are characterized by the changing of seasons, and stories of shifting landscapes and what was once before affect what we call ‘change’ and ‘progress.’ Multiple perspectives and ideas surrounding the vulnerability and resilience of history, memory, and identity seems to be allegorically expressed in landscape and natural forces in the works of both Mayumi Hamanaka and Brooks Salzwedel, now on view together in “Temporal Void” at  Oakland’s Johansson Projects.

Mayumi Hamanaka’s artwork from her latest project, Invisible Lands, was created in collaboration with the Lost & Found Project in Japan that exhibits photos damaged too badly by the devastating 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami to be returned to their owners. Hamanaka’s usual practice of investigating perceptions of history amid contexts of how and where it has been written is applied towards these material culture remnants. Says the artist, “I felt that each photograph was the proof of someone else, but it is missing the existence of the photographer, the existence of the model(s) and the existence of the landscape… Some of the photographs here are permanently missing the information of the photographs original locations, where they were originally taken, and by whom and with whom … I wanted to create this invisible world that someone lost forever.” Hamanaka re-imagines and recreates the memories suggested from the photographs, and also builds up white tape like topographical maps over damaged portions of human figures, which recall how the photographs have been altered and shaped literally and figuratively by the land, and how she attempts to repair. Hamanaka also shows her large paper triptych Grain of the Voice installed in City Hall during the Art & Soul Festival, and Aboveground 2 where the artist layers landscapes from Japan and California, further emphasizing obfuscation of relationships between place, identity, and land.

Brooks Salzwedel’s multimedia pieces of charcoal and graphite drawings of ethereal, anonymous landscapes sandwiched within multiple layers of transparent and semi-transparent Mylar or Duralar acetate cast in resin, a technique created in 2004 during his final year at the Art Center College of Design he says “evokes the fragility” of environments, “natural and unnatural…”  The resulting woodland scenes from this intricate process is concurrently serene and disconcerting,  illustrating both within its technically toxic medium and feral woodlands representations the transitive states of the urban encroachment on the natural land, and nature’s emminent reclamation. Like Hamanaka’s series of artworks, although there are plentiful traces of human labor and suggested existence in Salzwedel’s depictions, there is an obvious absence of actual humans or animals, which Salzwedel says evokes a necessary element of abjected desolation and loneliness, “as if these images were those of a distant future where man has disappeared, or that he fled to relocate.” This absence and notion of fleeing creates a wary suggestion of disaster, forthcoming or having already occurred. But whereas Hamanaka’s work aims to reinstill not only the resiliency of the human spirit over  the hostility of  the natural terrain, and in some ways reconcile the relationship between the natural world and human, Salzwedel does not envision so bright an outcome: … Nature is a powerful force,” he says, “it is only a matter of time before we see who has the last word.”

“Temporal Void,” artwork by Mayumi Hamanaka and Brooks Salzwedel will be at Johansson Projects, 2300 Telegraph Avenue through January 16