Back to the Future | Grey 12
6 to 8 November 2015
Oval Lingotto, Turin, Italy
White Rainbow is pleased to take part in Artissima, 6 to 8 November 2015, with a solo presentation of Chu Enoki.
Chu Enoki (b. 1964) is one of the seminal figures in postwar Japanese art and is recognised as an inspirational figure by many contemporary Japanese artists such as Keiji Uematsu (b. 1947), Takashi Murakami (b. 1962), Koki Tanaka (b. 1975) and the collective Chim↑Pom (founded 2005). Since 2000, Enoki has been the subject of several museum retrospectives in Japan. Despite this, Enoki remains to this day largely unknown internationally.
In spring 2015, White Rainbow presented Chu Enoki: Enoki Chu, a solo exhibition of the artist, which focused on his sculptural work since the turn of the century. Consisting mainly of cast iron sculptures based on military apparatus such as canons, Colts and Kalashnikov guns, these works comment on the ambiguities of foreign policy in postwar Japan. At Artissima, White Rainbow focuses on an earlier period in Enoki’s practice, when he mainly used his body as a tool to comment on developments in society. A range of works and documentation of landmark events are selected to highlight his conceptual engagements with the body and performance in the 1970s and 80s.
In 1977, on a visit to a friend in Hungary as well as to the first French retrospective of Marcel Duchamp in the newly opened Centre Pompidou in Paris, Enoki conceived a bodily intervention that playfully combined the different impulses behind his trip to Europe. He shaved off all the hair on one half of his body, leaving the other half untouched. The star shape that Duchamp shaved on his head upon his arrival in America – famously photographed by Man Ray – can be seen as the starting point for using the body as art. The Japanese phonetics for Hungary is a homophone with hangari, which literally means half-shaved, connecting the country with his bodily intervention. Going to Hungary with HANGARI documents his travels through Europe half-shaved; as well as a double portrait of the artist, including the mirroring intervention when the artist shaved the other half of his body in 1979.
Enoki’s alter ego Rose Chu found expression both in performative burlesque self-portraits as well as a bar hosted by Rose. For this, Enoki dressed up as a moustached woman, undermining strict gender categories. At Bar Rose Chu everybody was welcome, and Rose Chu served the house Whiskey with a specially designed label. With an allusion to Duchamp’s Rrose Sélavy pseudonym in its gender play, Bar Rose Chu is also an exploration of the happening and Enoki’s ideas about integrating art fully in daily life. Rose, or the colour pink, stands for the ‘forbidden land,’ a reference to the many bars reserved for American servicemen and foreigners, often decorated in pink. The bar only appeared for a few days, as if a lucid dream.
Society does not function as an isolated system, but is always influenced from external forces. With Dioxin and UFO, Enoki gives tangible form to both a microscopic and macroscopic threat. For Dioxin, the artist gave sculptural form to the toxicity that can take over society, and the human inability to contain its ungraspable spread. Furthermore, it raises questions about rapid economic development in Japan and the consequences of nuclear activities. UFO stages a fictional attack on Japan by an extraterrestrial power by manipulating photographs of Kobe’s major public institutions. Through this humorous extraterrestrial attack the artist playfully criticises Japan’s postwar modernisation, which happened mostly without consideration of its side effects on society.
Strongly convinced by his ideas about art and everyday life, much of Enoki’s artistic practice is immaterial or ephemeral. Using cast iron throughout his career, the artist nonetheless often remelted existing sculptures to produce new work. Hence, many of his performances and interventions exist predominantly through photographic documentation. White Rainbow will present portfolios of photographs that document and convey the initial ideas that went into Enoki’s project, as well a selection of drawings that illustrate the artist’s creative drive.
Chu Enoki, We Captured a Small UFO at Last!, 1974, set of nine manipulated black and white photographs, collage, white Holbein ink.
Courtesy the artist and White Rainbow, London.