Goucher exhibit shows draw of Japanese and American aesthetic

March 19, 1993|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Art Critic

Those who saw Mineko Grimmer's elegant and mesmerizing "music boxes" at the Maryland Institute's recent "Hypnosis" exhibit may be surprised to learn that this Los Angeles artist is represented here again so soon, in a show at Goucher College called "Confluence: Art at the Intersection of Japanese and American Esthetics."

Although Grimmer's one work at Goucher is in principle much the same as the two at the institute, it's on a larger scale and in a different context.

"Confluence" brings together two artists who have experienced both Japanese and American influences, Grimmer and Tom Nakashima, to see how the two countries' aesthetics can merge in individuals. It's a timely concept in a multicultural period, especially in a country where we are subject, by individual background and by participation in a polyglot society, to influences of many cultures.

As curator Helen Glazer's intelligent essay points out, Grimmer's and Nakashima's backgrounds are different and somewhat opposite. And the duality of influence in their art shows itself in different ways.

Grimmer was born and brought up in Japan, where she received a traditional Western Beaux-Arts-style training long out of favor here. Having married an American and moved to the United States, she has come to blend principles of conceptual art with a bTC sensitivity to materials and a response to nature that reflect her heritage.

Her work here, "Untitled," features an inverted pyramid of pebbles frozen in ice over a pool of water with two piano wires pulled taut above it. Between the pebbles and the pool are six groups of bamboo "fingers" projecting at different levels from wooden towers at either side. As the ice melts, the pebbles fall into the water, clacking on the bamboo and pinging on the wires as they go. It's a fascinating and restful work to contemplate, and, as Glazer points out, it incorporates conceptual ideas such as the creation of temporary works and the importance of process.

Nakashima is a different story. Born in this country of a Japanese-American father and a Canadian mother, and raised as a Midwestern Roman Catholic, he made a pilgrimage to Japan in 1988 when he was in his late 40s.

His best works here, paintings which incorporate images of cages, are quite Western in their look. It is in their content that they most strongly bring in the Japanese element, for Nakashima's paintings of cages refer to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. The rationale at the time may have been that internment was partly for their own protection, but Nakashima's "Coffin/Cage" reminds us that a cage does not so much protect as destroy.

Although certain borrowings from Japanese art can be pointed out in Nakashima's work, it shows its American origins more clearly than its Japanese. Of the two artists here, Grimmer provides the more fully balanced example of the exhibit's title, "Confluence."

"Confluence: Art at the Intersection of Japanese and American Esthetics"

Where: Rosenberg Gallery, Kraushaar Auditorium, Goucher College, Dulaney Valley Road, Towson.

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and on evenings and weekends when there are events in Kraushaar, through April 23. Two events are scheduled in conjunction with

the exhibit.

* On March 30 at 7.30 p.m. there will be a panel discussion of cross-cultural issues in Merrick Hall (adjacent to Kraushaar), including the artists. Admission is free.

* On April 4 at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m., also in Merrick Hall, the Computer Music Consort will present a concert of music by John Cage, including a composition that incorporates Mineko Grimmer's work. For that occasion, the work will be moved into Merrick and consequently will not be on view in the exhibit from April 2 to April 6.

Call: (410) 337-6333 for information about the exhibit; (410) 659-8124 for information about the concert and lecture.

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