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Shimmering Chimera–Yukari Araki's Ready-Colored Sculptures


When I picked up a small work hanging from the ceiling at her solo exhibition, she turned it upside down and showed me, saying, "You can hang it here or connect it to the metal fittings over here". At that moment, I was reminded of the floating nature of Araki Yukari's works, which are often exhibited in the form of hanging pieces. The fact that the top and bottom of the work can be altered means that the assemblage was probably created by joining objects together while rotating them in various directions.

On the other hand, there are works with a clearly defined top and bottom, such as the series of high heels.Several slender columns have been introduced to nestle into the shoe shapes, pushing the work's center of gravity upwards, resulting in an architectural structure with a highly hollow space.The first part is a hanging piece, and the second part, a high-heeled piece, vividly visualizes gravity by laying bare the structure that supports the weight.In this context, both works are rooted in the same idea.Objects with different identities live a second life that differs from their original use by being incorporated into Araki's work.

She usually collects material (ready-made items from her surroundings) that could be used in her works, and recently some people have been bringing their unwanted items that Araki seems to like.The objects collected this way are color-coded, for example, pink and blue, and used in the assemblage.However, there is surprisingly little consistency of color in the finished work. Rather, the appearance of the work gives a mixed impression: glossy, matte, transparent, reflecting light…. The variety of materials in the assemblage is natural, but the heterogeneity of the materials is emphasized, and the chimeric impression is strengthened by daring to group them in a single color.

However, even so, the starting point of the work is the color-categorization ritual of what color it is categorized as, and Araki does not color the work herself, but rather acts as a passive categorizer of the colors of the material that is distributed as a commodity. Today, it seems that a product, be it general merchandise or clothing, can only be distributed as a commodity if it is available in several different colors. It is as if it is a good thing to increase options by offering a wide variety of colors. (But is it really an option?)

It is in this respect that I would like to call Araki's work ready-colored sculpture. And by the fact that, despite the fact that color is an important requirement of the work, what the artist does is not coloring but selection, Araki's work raises questions about the ontology of color. It is a variation on the question that the readymade once posed to the act of making, in the form of what color is.

In terms of following readymade colors, some may recall the work of Tony Cragg, who arranges found pieces of plastic according to hue.In his case, by limiting himself to plastic, the most 20th-century material, the work took on a kind of civilization-critical aspect.Araki's work brings to light our 21st-century taste for coloring everything in the same way, regardless of what the material is. Perhaps because her work gives a shimmering impression, it is often seen as fashionable or design-oriented. However, the essence of her work is to expose contemporary society's obsession with colour, and to 'bleach' our unconscious trust in the uncertainty of color.


Takashi Ishizaki (Curator, Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art)

​January 2024


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