By Tucker Neel
Originally published in ART LIES Magazine, Issue No. 64, Winter 2009
Sometimes objects are so strange, so obsessively constructed, and unabashedly beautiful that, like a good intoxicant, they leave you mumbling and incoherent, unable to vocalize what they are doing to you. Yo Fukui’s LA debut solo show, Future Imperfect, at David Salow gallery comes satisfyingly close to accomplishing this sense of bewilderment. While it does fail to impress at times, the show is quite literally a spectacular start to this artist’s career.
Fukui’s stock and trade is his signature felt appliqué technique, where countless rectangle color swatches accumulate to form fantastic patterns and sensuous surfaces. Five large sculptural works showcase his crafty obsessiveness, usually with an amorphous felt-covered form hovering above or around brightly painted paper mache’ bases reminiscent of Franz West’s sculptures. The almost compulsive constructions are startlingly, but none is more stunning than I Love You No Matter If The Earth is Destroyed. Here Fukui deploys his additive method atop a tie-dyed sheet, creating a zigzag pattern resembling a knitting project executed under heavy psychedelics. The entire form resembles a colossal hummingbird, complete with an erect metal proboscis. At night it glows, speckled with luminescent nipple-like orbs filled with sparkling Christmas lights. The buckling and bulging mass hovers on an unassuming steel armature as its long metal pole prods the unfinished skeleton of a corrugated plastic and metal shed. Work like this is frankly difficult to describe because it’s so insistently phantasmagorical, inspiring hyphen-heavy allegorical interpretations that always seem to miss the mark. And this is where Fukui’s work succeeds, when it generates a kind of ocular overload that renders all description inept.
The most incongruous and unsuccessful piece in the show is a painting of sorts titled Rain, consisting of countless drippy grey and black diagonal sumi ink brush strokes on over thirteen dozen rolls of toilet paper stacked on towel racks against the gallery wall. A few calculated drips on the wall itself convey that the piece was made in situ. The use of stacked toilet paper as large canvas is a novel move, but the piece is essentially a quick play on materials, marrying bodily functions with abstract painting. We’ve seen plenty of these kinds of jokes before and because of this the piece is forgettable.
Perhaps Fukui’s greatest challenge is that there’s so much other work out there employing techniques and materials similar to his – to varying degrees of success. It’s hard to imagine the works in this show going toe-to-toe with the likes of Yayoi Kusama, or even Mindy Shapero, because Fukui simply hasn’t figured out how to push his obsessive material concerns to their most extreme limits. However, his work certainly holds its own among so many of the junk-as-new millennium-totem works that seem to have colonized certain sectors of the art world for the last decade. Fukui’s work will have no trouble surviving this trendy epoch if he can make his next works ones that embrace even more risk while still residing at the fringes of pleasure.