E’wao Kagoshima

February 3 – March 1, 2018

E’wao Kagoshima (b. 1945, Nigata Japan) creates surreal, sci-fi, fantastical imagery across a variety of media. On view in his third solo exhibition at the gallery, are singular works and series made between 1981 and 2015. The paintings, works on paper and collages focus on the figure—obscured, amended, bifurcated, multiplied, and hybridized. Within each, Kagoshima veers between the erotic and grotesque, comical and frightening, familiar and otherworldly. He calls upon his expert draftsmanship as readily as his imagination, and conjures a strange terrain that is equal parts perfection and chaos. 

 Untitled (1981), is one of six collages that feature black-and-white images of men in suggestive poses, strategically placed paper or other objects at times covering and others diverting the sexual content. Kagoshima inevitably inserts humor, double entendre, and ambiguity into his works; here, an image of a cocker spaniel licking its lips, or a man in a seated pose with a TV for a head broadcasting the image of a 1950s-era female. The artist appears preoccupied with the fluidity of gender and sexuality, a line of inquiry then ahead of its time. Past Squint (2015) is a found thrift store painting of a nude woman seated on a brown, over stuffed armchair, over which Kagoshima loosely rendered a cartoonish face that is both forward-facing and in profile, with holes that strategically reveal the woman’s body. This morphing tactic appears again in Finally, come back home (2012), a drawn and painted collage that distorts and splits what appear to be female figures. Dopplegangers (2014) includes text of the same name set against a purple field with a yellow tangle of bramble-esque lines. It most succinctly evidences the artist’s fascination with dualities and doubling.

Kagoshima is as prolific as he is inventive, and has amassed an extensive and varied body of work since his breakout, New York exhibition Workspace, held at the New Museum in 1983. The artist moved to New York from Tokyo in 1978, the same year as the seminal Bad Painting, an ironically titled group show curated by New Museum founder Marcia Tucker. Its artists were described as using a “mixture of art-historical and non-art resources, and fantastic and irreverent content.” Bad Painting elevated the personal and idiosyncratic as well as pop and kitsch while it subverted markers of technical skill or “good” taste.” Kagoshima’s style, which marries his extensive knowledge of Japanese myth and cultural symbolism with American pulp and popular culture, thrived in this burgeoning milieu, which grew out of the East Village art scene.