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Yoshihiro Kitai
at Pulliam Deffenbaugh Gallery


Born in the Kansai region of western Japan, Yoshihiro Kitai learned traditional Japanese forms of ceramics and printmaking at an early age. He took up painting in his adolescence, then moved to the United States after high school, initially unable to speak English but determined to bridge not only this communication gap, but the divide between his Eastern heritage and his new home in the West. In his works on paper at Pulliam Deffenbaugh, Kitai tackles this latter goal with deftness and delicacy. The works are divided into two series, entitled “MWC” and “Inscribe.” The former consist of fastidious dots of gold and silver leaf, interposed with tiny ink drops in muted colors. Viewed up close, the works create a pointillist or pixel-like effect; seen from afar, they register as rain clouds, each dot of leaf or paint a dewdrop in a welling storm. In works such as MWC-38, gunmetal hues blend in with the silver gilding for a monochromatic effect, while in more vivid works such as MWC-39, green, orange and purples contrast more assertively with the metal dots. Although the gentle miasmas and fog banks evoke Tibetan cloud tangkhas and the mist-enshrouded outcroppings of traditional Chinese landscape painting, the shiny metal leaf (an element in Japanese master drawings) also suggests the bling-obsessed glitz of contemporary Western hip-hop culture.

In the “Inscribe” series, the artist adopts a more minimalist approach, lancing broad paper sheets with stickpins. Densely concentrated, the pinpricks form lines that meander through the composition, entering the picture plane from one side, exiting out the other. While they lack “MWC’s” teeming, moiré-like effects, they do have considerable presence and allusive power. Although they consist of the simplest of media—holes stuck in white paper—they are redolent with Tao Te Ching-like paradox; they are made of nothing, yet they constitute something. Directional yet peripatetic, they suggest a journey from one place—and paradigm—to another. In the body of work that preceded this one (exhibited at Portland Art Center in December 2006), Kitai also riffed on cloud imagery, using impossibly broad sheets of gleaming gold and silver leaf. The current pieces are quieter visually but pack a more concentrated conceptual punch.

—Richard Speer


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