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Hara Museum
Hara Documents 5 The Image Itself-Works by Katsuo Tachi

MONTY DiPIETORO

uPainter Tachi lays it on thickv

Jast before the recent "G7" art-showcase exhibition
opened at the Spiral in Tokyo's Omotesando,
Hidenori Ota,director of the participating Ota Fine
Arts,remarked that his gallery was art one of only a
half dozen serious art spaces in the city that were
small,ambitious and solvent Regular gallery-goers will
recognize the names of the others-Wako Works of Art,
Rontgen Kunstraum,the Taka Ishii,Koyanagi and Koyama.

For those looking to find a healthy mix of established
and up-and coming artists,the aforementioned spaces are
tough to beast.Although there are but a handful of good
galleries scattered around the world's largest
megatropolis (one could find a similar number of on-par
spaces in a single New York City blook),several private
museums glimmer on the Tokyo art map,an otherwise
uninspired piece of cartograrhy dominated by
hit-and-miss rental galleries,exhibitions and touring
blockbuster shows.

The Hara is arguably the most curious of Tokyo's
private museums. A three-story 1938 Bauthaus-style
building with sculpture gardens surrounded by
vine-covered walls,tha Hara Museum of Contemporary Art
is situated on a quiet residential street in Tokyo's
Shinagawa Ward.With its 20th anniversary next year,it
has done much to promote contemporary Japanese art.
The latest installment in the Hara's ongoing series of
small exhibition is "Hara Documents 5:The Image
Itself-Works by Katsuo Tachi,"and once again curators
have bucked trends by presenting a show of works in
that almost abandoned and now nearly quaint artistic
medium;oil painting. By the looks of it,Katsuo Tachi,
34,loves to paint.The Osaka-based artist's works are a
wonderful mess of thick impasto and thin,pale washes
that describe biomorphic struggle-the Hara's Atsuo
Yasuda lovingly calls them "failures"-in a
paletteknife frenzy of purples and yellows set against
earth tones.

The canvases are fairly large-some almost 2 meters
high-and all seven on display stubbornly adhere to the
same basic composition:paint thick and arclike on the
left,and thin and oval on the right, with wings,or
leaves,or something suggesting freedom and life
sprouting out from the center and up toward the top.
These are pictures that celebrate painting and the
expressive possibility inherent in minerals and oil
worked onto a stretched sheet of canvas. Yasuda,who
curated the show,believes that Kansai artists are more
emotionally expressive than their Kanto counterparts.
"Especially during the 1980s,Tokyo art journalists
discovered and became very interested in the very
active and aggressive Kansai-based artists like
Yasumasa Morimura and Tomoaki Ishihara, "he says.

While Tokyo suffers from a shortage of progressive art
spaces,says Yasuda,the situation in Osaka is worse.What
attracted the attention of Tokyo art writers over 10
years ago was the above-mentioned Kansai artists'
attempt to do something to improve their local gallery
scene.A movement called "Yes Art" grew out of the
sympathetic Ken Toriyama's Gallery Haku in Osaka. Tachi
was one of the younger and most aggressive of the Yes
Art,and it was soon after that he and his group began
mounting shows in ad hoc spaces in and around Osaka,
Kobe and Kyoto that the gang made their first foray
into Tokyo with a show at one of the capital's most
respected avant-garde art spaces,Sagacho.In 1994,Tachi
was awarded an encouragement prize at the Vision of
Contemporary Art competition at the Ueno Royal Museum
in Tokyo.The self-promotion,which included lectures
delivered in an exaggerated Osaka accent,had paid off.

"Kansai artists are passionate and like to present
themselves as performers,and are a little wild,"Yasuda,
who is also Osaka-born,says with a laugh."I think
Kansai artists are basically more chauvinistic."

The energy in Tachi's paintings attests to this,but it
would be nice to see him try something new for a
change,as he has been painting the same basic form
(rather well)for years. This is the first major show of
Tachi's work in Tokyo,and is complemented by "The
Painted Vision," which features several dozen paintings
from the Hara's excellent permanent collection of over
600 works.Highlights include a de Kooning and
Rauschenberg.Also,don't forget to have a look at what
Morimura did to the museum's firstfloor bathroom,and
for the seedy,lock the door behind you in Nobuyoshi
Araki's three-room porno hutch.

While the Hara plans a show of German photography for
the fall,until then it's mostly oils at one of Tokyo's
most unique art spaces.For fans of new painting,"Hara
Documents 5:The Image Itself-Works by Katsuo Tachi"is
a worthwhile exhibition at a museum that is always well
worth checking out.