Yuriko Yamaguchi’s wall relief Energy gives a searing impression. It suggests a red-hot sun seen from afar or an ember seen up close. A slightly flattened red-and-black circle 10 feet across, it is made up of clumps of resin, which on examination look like bundles of cut-up drinking straws or medical tubing, linked with tangles and nets of wire.
Those materials, and the loose method of assembly, dominated this show of eight reliefs (most dated 2011) and three ink-on-paper drawings (all 2010). While resin and wire are not as immediately appealing as the sculptural paper and glass Yamaguchi has used previously, their symbolism supports the theme of the show, which she titled “Interconnected.”
Born in Osaka in 1948, Yamaguchi has lived in the United States since 1971 (and in the Washington, D.C., area for many years). Yet she retains a Japanese proclivity to find significant meanings in materials and processes and to see existence as a unitary experience. Wire can represent continuity; resin, malleable and transformable, here resembles tiny slices from hollow wire. (Only the oldest work, Bubbles #3, 2009, incorporates actual tubing.)
Thus Yamaguchi works with positive and negative space, and with duration and interruption.
Virtually every work in the show employs circles—a powerful emblem in Buddhism and symbolic in the West of natural cycles, among other things. In the drawings, the shape is repeated to create dense fields. In the wall relief Reflection, mirror shards veiled by grayish translucent resin line a hemispherical bowl that is placed amid a nest of wire; tiny balls of opaque resin clot the nest’s many intersections. The tubelike clusters in several works bring to mind frogspawn, and these balls might be some other egg form. Yamaguchi’s materials may be synthetic, but she uses them to evoke nature both large (sun) and small (cell). In this context, the show’s title can make ecological as well as social and spiritual allusions.
Five works present “rocks” of resin in various colors—purple, peach, black and off-whites—ensnared in wildly hand-shaped tangles of wire. The largest, Season of Change, measures 18 by 90 by 12 inches. These reliefs make the wall an active participant through cast shadows, and most include diminutive vortexes or cylinders of compacted wire. While the modest-size works here can’t achieve the enveloping quietness of the large installations Yamaguchi has done elsewhere, they act and speak harmoniously and cumulatively.
Photo: Yuriko Yamaguchi: Energy, 2011, resin and wire, 96 by 120 by 6 inches; at Howard Scott.