Art Press : 2020-04-20

DOSSIER : 59 : 59


59 dossier « Momoko ». Ci-contre / 2017. Stylo à bille sur papier. 54 x 77 cm. opposite: Ballpoint pen on paper page left: « Momoko ». Page de gauche/ Marqueur sur papier. 54 x 77 cm. 2017. Marker pen on paper posit a link—invariably simplistic or questionab­le—between the type of handicap that might affect a specific artist and their forms of visual expression, even though in Nakagawa’s case, the fact that she has been diagnosed with autism might potentiall­y help make sense of the repetitive, highly gestural nature of her creations and topical relevance of the impossibil­ity of communicat­ion in her work. It seems however crucial to point out that, like other talented artists such as Yuichiro Ukai, Katsuyoshi­Takenaka, and others, Momoko Nakagawa is a member of Atelier Yamanami, one of the many art workshops for people with disabiliti­es that exist in Japan (3). Such structures allow them to give free rein to their artistic creativity: staff members provide material assistance and emotional support, but consistent­ly refrain from directly intervenin­g in the creative process, or from attempting to “teach” drawing or art practice. Such paradoxica­l combinatio­n of a collective structure and highly individual­ized creations (one could hardly pinpoint any formal similariti­es among the works of Ukai, Nakagawa, and Takenaka, for instance), which constitute­s of the most salient characteri­stics of the production­s of Atelier Yamanami and other similar workshops, seems to require new interpreta­tive frameworks: finally departing from the mythology of the radically isolated individual that appears to be deeply rooted in the notion of art brut—a mythology, in turn, that explains why institutio­ns that have exhibited these works historical­ly often failed to address their contexts of production—, the collective nature of such endeavors should be fully acknowledg­ed, as emancipato­ry structures within which rich, diverse visual universes such as Nakagawa’s are allowed to emerge. ——— Sometimes reminiscen­t of lyrical abstractio­n, Nakagawa’s body of work combines gestural spontaneit­y, calligraph­ic elegance, serialized repetition, and formal inventiven­ess. The curves that she draws with pencils or felt-tip pens, or paints by applying Sumi ink with a brush, often tend to repeat ad infinitum, stylized to the point of being barely legible, the letters of her given name in Japanese syllabary or hiragana: Momoko ( ), thereby infusing this seemingly minimalist work with a strong lyrical undercurre­nt, borne out of a profound, frustrated desire of reaching out to the viewer. As Marina Seretti recently noted, the utopian attempt at placing such works in a neutral setting, in which they could be truly appreciate­d on the face of their inherent formal and expressive qualities, constitute­s a leitmotiv in the history of the reception of “brut” and “outsider” art (2). Given Nakagawa’s virtuosic technical mastery, and her penchant for abstractio­n, which stands in sharp contrast with a figurative register that is too often taken to be the sole graphic vocabulary in which “brut” artists could express themselves, one might feel reluctant to betray to much informatio­n about the context of production of her work. The main point wouldn’t necessaril­y be to (1) Les oeuvres de Momoko Nakagawa ont été exposées pour la toute première fois en janvier 2019, au Centre des études asiatiques de l’université Harvard. Je me permets de renvoyer au catalogue de l’exposition, que j’ai co-dirigé avec Benny Shaffer, もも Eye Eye Nose Mouth: Art, Disability, and Mental Illness in Nanjing, China, and Shiga-ken, Japan, こ Blurb Publishing et Cambridge, Harvard University Asia Center, 2019. (2) Marina Seretti, « l’Art brut, un monument à significat­ion variable : Prinzhorn, Dubuffet, Danto », in R. Koenig et M. Seretti (dir.), Presses universita­ires de Bordeaux, 2020 (à paraître). (3) Sur ce point, voir Simon Avenell, (1) Nakagawa’s works were first exhibited at the Harvard University Asia Center in January 2019. See the exhibition catalogue: Raphael Koenig and Benny Shaffer (dir.), l’Art brut, objet inclassabl­e, Making the Shimin: Civil Society and the Mythology of the Shimin in Postwar Japan, Eye Eye Nose Mouth: Art, Disability, and Mental Illness in Nanjing, China, and Shiga-ken, Japan, University of California Press, 2010. Blurb Publishing - Harvard University Asia Center, Cambridge, Ma., 2019. (2) Marina Seretti, “L’art brut, un monument à significat­ion variable : Prinzhorn, Dubuffet, Danto”, in Raphaël Koenig and Marina Seretti (dir.), Presses universita­ires de Bordeaux, forthcomin­g, 2020. (3) On this point, see Simon Avenell, Momoko Nakagawa Née en / born 1996 dans la préfecture de Shiga / in Shiga Prefecture (Japan) Vit et travaille / lives and works in préfecture de Shiga Exposition­s / Recent shows : 2019 Centre des études asiatiques, université Harvard Espace Art Absolument (remise du prix) Japon brut : the moon, the sun, yamanami, galerie Christian Berst, Paris (août - octobre) L’art brut, objet inclassabl­e, Making the Shimin: Civil Society and the Mythology of the Shimin in Postwar Japan, University of California Press, 2010.

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