A.I.R. Gallery is pleased to announce A Hair’s Breadth, an exhibition of new work by New York Member Tomoko Amaki Abe. Through glass sculpture, works on paper, and video, Abe reflects on the ephemerality of humans and the endurance of nature, while also interrogating how the fragility of the ageing human body might mirror the vulnerability of our natural environment in the face of climate change. This is Abe’s second solo exhibition at A.I.R.
In the exhibition, industrial materials intermingle with natural materials. Transient phenomena such as shadows are given a more permanent, material form, while obdurate objects like rocks are recast in delicate glass. Installed at the front of the gallery are works from the Tracing Shadow series. These abstract works transform stills from video documentation of shadows cast by trees into Borosilicate glass sculptures, mounted on concrete bases. Abe traced the shadows cast by the glass into the concrete, making it appear as if the spirit of a living thing was emerging from its own shadow. They are illuminated by projections of the original video, which was shot by Abe. On an adjacent table are several sculptures from the Rocks and Rays series. These hollow and transparent forms, cast in glass from molds created from rocks that Abe found on the beach near her home, are bisected by colored glass rods, representing the rays of sunshine that Abe observed briefly hitting the rocks before disappearing.
Continuing the synergy between humans and nature, Black to White is a large branch hanging from the ceiling whose material transforms gradually from wood to glass. The color of the glass changes from clear to black, then to white, and in the end the branch melts into a puddle on the floor. Nearby sits the sculpture Hair and Autopart, which contains a car fragment—likely from the undercarriage— that had washed up on the beach. Mangled by damage caused by heat or collision, it appears vaguely reminiscent of tree bark or coral reef. Overlaid on top is a long piece of cast glass that has been silkscreen-printed with a magnified image of the artist’s hair.
The installation Future Memory, which anchors the exhibition, extends this metaphor. Images of Abe’s hair and images of volcanic lava are silk-screened onto three glass panels as if large-scale microscope slides and are then anchored to pedestals that resemble scaffolding. The three images, striated and flowing, appear to be in harmony. And yet, they also bear two contrasting relationships to time. Whereas the strands of white and silver in Abe’s hair index her ephemerality, the ropey surfaces of lava demarcate its eternality. Alongside the glass panels, slide images of construction sites in Tokyo in the ’90s, as well as videos of a lava landscape and a water gate, which were all taken by Abe, are projected onto fabric frames. These images are overlaid to create a complex vision of the world in thirty years. The soundtrack for this piece, titled “Suzuki Swift,” was created by Ian Joyce. It is derived from the musical impact of a wind storm on the underside of Joyce’s car while parked on a cliff above the sea in Western Ireland.
The cyanotype prints in the Last Dive series explore these concerns even further. Images of Abe’s hair and volcanic lava are laser cut and collaged on Reeves and Asuka paper. These works were inspired by the artist’s experience of diving in the Pacific coral reef with her eighty-four-year-old father, who remarked, “It could be my last dive.” For Abe, her father’s recognition of his impermanence echoes the possible impermanence of the coral reef itself. “I was made to realize that it could be the last dive for all of us,” she says, acknowledging scientists’ predictions that ninety percent of the coral in the world may disappear in the next two decades.