Saturday, March 7, 2009

Akiko Shirai at Murakami Gallery

“Lyrical Works”
Akiko Shirai’s Prints to Exhibit at Murakami Gallery

(press release written for Murakami Gallery in 1997)

NEW YORK—Never before seen woodcut and intaglio prints by Japanese artist Akiko Shirai will be shown at the Murakami Gallery, 17 East 71st Street, 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10021 from Wednesday, March 5th through Saturday, April 5th.

Akiko Shirai’s mature work is steeped in a traditional Asian aesthetic—open, light-filled compositions, muted colors and masterful use of pattern—as well as a magnetic lyricism that stems from her love of music and poetry. “Lyrical Works” offers a comparative study of two series of prints, representing distinct phases in the artist’s career.

Akiko’s early woodcut prints are of subject brimming with elemental energy: a rainbow in England, a wave, and a skyline view of New York City. The artist is concerned with the elusive nature of each subject: its rhythmic fluidity, its unharnessable kinetic power, its sparkle and dynamism. 

Akiko uses minimal color (most pieces are only black and white), rough textures that mimic the grain of the wood, and bold, stark lines. In doing so she creates complexity, tension, and paradoxically, an ultimate peace. The series is printed on Japanese rice paper, which has a delicate, linen-like texture.

The most recent series evolved out of the artist’s passion for music. In an unusual combination of intaglio and embossing, abstract shapes interplay with stippled textures and jewel-like colors. Movement animates the prints. 

Loosely-structured compositions create a sense of weightlessness and freedom in works like “Waltz,” “Jazz,” “Mazurka” and “Serenade.” They are also deeply rhythmic in feel, a quality achieved through repetition and layering of particular tones and themes. Akiko translates the aural into the visual in a way that is startling and provocative.

The Murakami Gallery is located in an elegant and historic townhouse on the Upper East Side in New York City. It was founded in 1993 by Hiroko Murakami, who has assembled an eclectic salon of international artists linked by classic taste and Japanese sensibility.