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.