Tradition and Translation: Extension of Nature Presents an Oasis of Tranquility in Downtown Houston

Categories: Visual Arts

Photo courtesy of the artist and the Hooks-Epstein Galleries
"Sun Dial" by Mari Omori, created entirely with the envelopes tea bags come in.
In the lobby of the 35-story Total Plaza office building in downtown Houston lies an oasis of tranquility, as two Japanese artists share an exhibition of consummate subtlety and artistry entitled Tradition and Translation: Extension of Nature.
At the risk of being politically incorrect with emphasis on gender, one artist is female, Mari Omori, and her work embodies the fragile sensibility and sensitivity of the female principle. One artist is male, Masaru Takiguchi, and his sculptures embody the strength and virility of the male principle. The analogy falls apart quickly enough, however, as Omori's fragile works are also powerful, and Takiguchi's tough-minded sculptures, especially the ones in wood, show a sensitivity in design that is remarkable.

Omori has chosen here to use tea bags, or tea bag packaging, as her central medium, though they are used so well that the casual viewer would never know it. Her large "Sun Dial" is a circular, quiet extravaganza that is richly textured, and has a spiraling effect, with the outer edges seemingly serrated. It is slightly three-dimensional, and, though inanimate, has a pulsing life that seems to fill the gallery. To my amazement, it is composed entirely of what must be hundreds if not thousands of the envelopes that tea bags come in, a surprising fact that can be verified, if one stands to one side, by visually observing a few envelopes where the print on the backs becomes visible.

That Omori can be tough-minded as well is demonstrated by her "vessel iii". A beehive is enclosed in a dark brown wrap, open but tied together, with the ties echoing what might be antennae, though they are not. It is ominous and threatening. A companion piece, "'vessel ii" is the other side of the coin, pale, an almost white interior filled with empty tea bags arrayed to create a sense of fluffiness. The result is two ingenious works of art, and a fascinating contrast as a bonus.

Omori also has a windsock, "Wind Catcher" and a graceful "Kimono", both tea colored and made of large tea bags sewn together. Again, the unusual material is perceptible only upon close examination. Both suggest a world of serenity, where beauty is appreciated. Omori was born in and grew up in Japan, but has been a Texas resident since 1992.

Takiguchi works in wood, stone and metal, in creating abstract sculptures that provide no narrative but rely instead on graceful curves and the intriguing richness of the materials to delight the viewer. Takiguchi has a large number of impressive works on display, so if you are able to visit the lobby gallery, leave ample time to savor his art.

This story continues on the next page.

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