Mike Weiss Gallery is pleased to present ENN, KAORUKO's second solo exhibition with the gallery. Synthesizing a thorough understanding of Western modernism and traditional Japanese artistry, KAORUKO's monumental paintings offer an unabashed glimpse of female figures behind closed doors - uninhibited, disrobed, and mid-gesture. Intermingling silkscreened kimono patterns, sumi calligraphy, rich acrylics, and graphite tracing, an eloquent portrait of hybrid identity emerges which unravels the intricate nature of human connection, as well as the unknown forces of destiny, love, and chance encounter.
It was KAORUKO's debut exhibition, Aromako, that first stripped away kimonos and societal expectations to reveal intimate undertones and tap into human essence. Caught interacting within private domestic spaces, pairs of women inhaled each other's scents, acting out of familiarity in place of pristine modesty to embody concepts of endearment, acceptance, and transcendence. As a former teenage pop star, KAORUKO's early experiences projecting the ideal woman have since been layered with four years living in NYC and the challenges of a language barrier, where tuning into gestures, facial expressions, and eye contact afforded her a keen sixth sense for the subtle nuances of interaction. Translating to predestined fate that connects total strangers, ENN expands upon the unseen ties that bind us all.
While this body of work bares the markings of today's cultural trends (cell phones, nail polish, teddy bears and the like), and portrays interiors in the vein of Roy Lichtenstein and David Hockney, its homage to tradition is unmistakable. Gold leaf clouds and floral motifs scatter across a new grouping of female figures, sourcing inspiration from the Byōbu folding screens that filled homes of the flourishing Edo period. In this style of Ukiyo-e "floating world" paintings, works like Sumo push banal, everyday subject matter and daily activities center stage, taking a witty and irreverent approach to representation. Red String tells the Japanese tale of soulmates bound at the pinky by an invisible thread, layering intricate woodblock patterning, textile prints, and the artist's origami signature; and it is Stocking that perhaps best indicates the perspectival depth and hidden meaning lurking beneath the surface.
In true sumi fashion, it is with deep feeling that KAORUKO depicts harmony between her native upbringing and 21st century present. Retaining the customs of her homeland while operating from a certain feminist freedom, KAORUKO depicts a marked evolution of artistic practice, societal roles, and the artist herself.
Born in Nagoya, KAORUKO is a self-taught artist with a cult following in Japan. She is now living and working in New York City.