Sunday, November 25, 2018

"Hiroko Koshino: A Touch of Bauhaus" at WhiteBox

Celebrated in Japan for decades, Hiroko Koshino makes her long overdue NYC debut at WhiteBox Gallery. The theatrical exhibition presents Koshino's bold clothing designs, lush Sumi-ink drawings, and abstract paintings--all connected by a Bauhaus sensibility.

Koshino's obsession with synthesizing all forms into a total artwork, a tenet of the Bauhaus, is brought to life by the teamwork of the artist herself, curator Kyoko Sato, and gallery director Juan Puntes. Gelled theater lights are used in lieu of typical gallery lights, casting Koshino's paintings and designs in dark, geometric shadows that highlight the shapes like dancers on a stage. In fact, the clothing pieces, paintings, and curatorial design in tandem seem to reference Triadisches Ballett, a ballet developed by Oskar Schlemmer in 1922 while at the Bauhaus. 

Furthering the Bauhaus quality of the show, clothing and paintings are grouped in thematic clusters, like scenes in a ballet. At the start of the main room, two mannequins are shown wearing the most conventional, ready-to-wear dresses of the exhibition in front of twenty-two pieces from "Colors," a series of mixed media paintings. Framed in a spotlight, this "scene" acts as a prologue to the more abstract, fantastical story to come. 

Sure enough, in the center of the room, there are four paper dresses from Koshino's "Kishiwada" collection beneath stark overhead lighting. Dangling from a bar without conventional clothing hangers, the delicate dresses gently tremble in midair, intensifying their phantasmagorical appearance. To the left is the stand-out of the exhibition, "Kimono with Work #757": a block-color kimono suspended from the ceiling several feet from the wall, casting a specter-like shadow on the Sumi-ink and acrylic painting behind it. Throughout the room and downstairs, there are several more of these ghostly dress-and-painting pairs. The staging of these spirits, inspired by Bauhaus and Japanese aesthetics, is effectively haunting. But more importantly, it exquisitely showcases the brilliance of Hiroko Koshino, whose work had been relatively unknown outside of Japan until now. 


  1. I like the way how you organize your review, how you start with the introduction of the artist and then brings us into the exhibition. From reading your sentences, I can feel your careful observations throughout the show. I like how you describe the layout of the exhibition as the staging of a ballet, I also have the same feelings when I was there. I appreciate you point out several individual artworks to bring us closer to the show. It might be worth to highlight some important pieces instead of talking a lot about every piece in the show.

  2. Maggie, The way in which you describe the physical layout of the exhibition is fantastic. I think you need to discuss what it is that makes Koshino's work similar to the Bauhaus (in style, methodology, concept) in the first paragraph rather than the second. Laying out these similarities at the beginning may help you be less repetitive as the article goes on. I would also discuss a bit more, as you hint at in the final paragraph, the similarities between Japanese and Bauhaus aesthetics. This would provide your review with a cultural and historical punch to match your terrific descriptions of the pieces themselves.