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We just visited Yuken Teruya’s new show, The Simple Truth, at Josee Bienvenu gallery in NYC. Teruya is a New York based artist from Okinawa, the southernmost prefecture of Japan. His works utilizes ordinary objects to reveal underlying problems of our society.
One of his most recognized pieces is a series of paper cut-out trees that seem to be growing inside paper bags. These trees may appear fragile, but can also look as if they are supporting the bag. This symbolizes the full circle of a tree that became paper, and then a commercial bag, and then the bag symbolically returns to the original tree.
Here is the artist’s statement. "Uncovering small metamorphosis in familiar objects is an exercise which enables one to turn routine into moments of significance, making us more aware of the indefinite alterations in our surroundings."
Another exhibit showed a series of New York Times newspapers depicting tragedy or conflict around the world on their front pages. However, “growing” or “sprouting” out of the assorted troubling news were trees and flowers that had been laboriously cut from the photos on the front page and folded to stand up as if growing in a field or forest. These papers, which came from trees, were used to depict and report chaotic world events--but in the hands of Teruya, they became an intriguing garden of life emerging from tales of death and destruction.
There is also a series of newspapers from his hometown in Okinawa reporting on a massive local protest against the U.S. Air Force there -- with the theme “It’s about me, It’s about you. There is a truth bigger than geopolitics.” Stencil cut into each paper is a phrase, written in Arabic, Hebrew, Farsi, Georgian, English and Basque. Teruya has used Okinawan traditional patterns called Bingata Kimono to express his messages in the past. While it is talking about a long history of occupation and friction with Japan and USA, the art piece is calm and poetic.
In addition, his other work, Forest Inc, is also on view now at 601 ArtSpace here in New York until April 25.