Mayumi Sarai

New York

at Lohin Geduld


Mayumi Sarai’s third solo show at Lohin Geduld featured 15 deftly carved sculptures, all but one wall-hung. Sarai uses found wood collected from different sources, sometimes antique pine reclaimed from demolition sites; she is also fond of cypress. Born in Japan, the New Jersey-based artist moved to New York City in 1991. She studied at Nihon University College of Art in Tokyo and the New York Studio School.

Using special Japanese chisels, Sarai fashions individual units, which she then assembles into various combinations. Recurring shapes include bowls, balls and rings. Two painting exhibitions that she saw in 2009-the Metropolitan Museum’s “Pierre Bonnard: The Late Still Lifes and Interiors” and the Philadelphia Museum’s “Cezanne and Beyond”—while working on the bowl—and ball-shaped elements particularly influenced her thinking about how to arrange her objects in space. The titles for three small sculptures (all 2010) credit those artists directly. Sarai cites Bonnard’s The Cherries (1923) as the inspiration for Still Life Painting after Bonnard (2010). Her version depicts a tight pile of meticulously faceted balls gathered in the bottom of a shallow bowl. The wood grain’s concentric flow accentuates volume in the “cherries” and contrasts with rough chisel marks inside the upper portion of the bowl. Compared to Bonnard’s unruly cherries, some dancing at the bowl’s rim, Sarai’s more orderly arrangement may have more in common with Cézanne’s Still Life with a Plate of Cherries (1885-87). Sarai’s still-life sculptures, displayed as they are on the wall, defy gravity, appearing like objects on a Cubist tabletop; they also bring to mind Matisse’s Bowl of Apples on a Table (1916).

Bowls (106 by 58 by 6 inches, 2009) featured a wall of over 100 bowls, some with balls and others empty. Dramatic shadows added to the overall effect. Some groupings were carved from one piece of wood. If the wall were a tabletop, the tableau might have resembled artifacts waiting to be catalogued. Botanical Mask #2 and three other related works (all 2009) go beyond the bowl as vessel. A cluster of lively irregular concave forms, connected to a base in the center via concealed pegs, seems to float, evoking halves of opened seedpods, comical ears or blaring trumpets.

In Cloud #3 (2011), layers of O-shaped elements, lightly stained white, create a pile on the wall, playing with positive and negative space. Ring Cycle (88 by 89 by 73 inches, 2011) comprises four large rings, each made of several intertwining strands of small spheres. Two of the rings stand upright and a third links through them, tilted up slightly from the floor.

The fourth ring hangs on the wall behind them, but seen from a certain angle appears to be part of the configuration, reminiscent of a DNA strand.

Photo: Mayumi Sarai: Botanical Mask #2, 2009, wood, 15 by 24 by 13 inches; at Lohin Geduld.