Piecing it together
Takashi Inaba’s Puzzle Project
Art Santa Fe will host the most recent version of the Puzzle Project, a jigsaw collage of varied works from about 30 artists brought together by Takashi Inaba of Japan to create surprising contrasts and correspondences. Inaba conceived the wall-size project, featuring puzzle pieces nine or 10 inches square, in the mid-2000s. His first idea was to design all the pieces himself. With the Puzzle Project’s formal inception in 2006, he had changed the idea to having the pieces created by other artists. There have been many installations of the work, each one involving a different roster of artists.
Participants are chosen after submitting applications or through direct selection by Inaba. Each one is given a blank cardboard puzzle piece and can create a design using photography, paints, mixed-media, collage, or any other medium — as long as it stays within the limits of the puzzle-piece border. Inaba said that the theme is “exceeding the boundary of nation, religion, and race with art. It will be connected.” The artists have the freedom to make marks and devise images as they see fit.
In the various versions of Puzzle Project, individual artists have created colorful, geometrical motifs, landscapes, intricate drawings, and burnished surfaces full of faces and symbols. David Rigby did a mixed-media piece with the photograph of a face looking out at the viewer through a torn hole held open by projecting fingers. On a painted pizza surface, Boss Hiko added trompe l’oeil flies. Michael Doherty painted a galaxy of interconnected planets and stars. Phyllis Dooney adorned her puzzle piece with the photographed torso of a pregnant woman. A beautiful symmetrical piece by Tomoyuki Nakamoto was half white and half black, the surface splattered with drops of liquid.
In the past, Puzzle Project installations have totaled hundreds of pieces, taking up vast wall surfaces. The Art Santa Fe iteration promises to be more intimate: In early July, when the work was still in process, Inaba said there would be 49 puzzle pieces by 29 artists. Most are Japanese, but a few are from Australia, the United States, and Canada. None of the artists know what the final puzzle will look like. Inaba will install the work himself, arranging the various pieces “creating various relations and non-relations . . . order and disorder and so on, like puzzling out the game,” he said.
Inaba, a self-educated artist, began his career in 1988. Ten years later, he started a series of monochromatic “mirror art works” making splatter-form marks on a medium of his own composition: glass, resin, and aluminum. He is co-director of MI Gallery, Osaka, and co-owner of Pad Gallery, Osaka.
About the Puzzle Project, he has written, “The world is a place where things connect and interconnect; they affect each other regardless of direct relations. This project will present a world showing how these interconnections and relations represent the order and disorder of existence. While politicians and big business may care little for the common people, we strongly believe that art will be able to expand the importance and feasibility of reconciliation; we don’t need further opposition and separation.”
When the Art Santa Fe version of the Puzzle Project is complete, Inaba will photograph it. After the showing, puzzle pieces will be returned to those artists who want them. Some of those remaining will be recycled into future installations. “The exhibition itself is an everlasting, expanding puzzle.” — Paul Weideman
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Puzzle Project, 2008, mixedmedia installation; clockwise from above, far left, pieces by Boss Hiko, Miwa Ichiko, and Michael Doherty