Spotlight: A New Paris Exhibition Traces Postwar Japanese Artist Keiji Uematsu’s Conceptual Experiments Across Five Decades

Uematsu's solo exhibition, "Looking back on the past from the future," is on view at Baudoin Lebon through July 29, 2023.

Keiji Uematsu, Interval - Three Stones (1976). © Keiji Uematzu. Courtesy of Baudoin Lebon, Paris.

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What You Need to Know: Japanese post-war conceptual artist Keiji Uematsu (b. 1947) is associated with the Mono-ha art movement, which translates to “School of Things” and is comprised of a loose group of 20th-century artists who explore the possibilities and boundaries between natural and industrial materials. Throughout his practice, Uematsu has consistently sought to locate the relationship between object and space—and to make that invisible relationship visible. Currently on view through July 29, 2023, Baudoin Lebon, Paris, is presenting the solo exhibition “Keiji Uematsu: Looking back on the past from the future,” which includes work from throughout the artist’s more than five-decade career. With a focus on the influence of time and temporality, the show delves into Uematsu’s inimitable artistic perception of physicality, objecthood, and the myriad aspects and effects of context. Featuring seminal photographic series from the 1970s to recent drawings and sculptures, the exhibition is an opportunity to trace both the artist’s—and contemporary art’s—exploratory evolution.

Why We Like It: Uematsu’s work is indicative of a seismic art historical shift within the realm of contemporary art—specifically its aims and execution. Parallels between Uematsu’s early work can be seen in contemporaneous artist’s work such as Bruce Nauman’s photographic pieces Self-Portrait as a Fountain (1968) and Wall Floor Positions (1968), as well as an antecedent to projects like Ai Weiwei’s 1995 Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn (1995). Uematsu’s Seeing II – Flower (1975) and Interval – Three sones (1976), both included in the present exhibition, engage with prevailing and personal investigations of physical objects and how they are perceived depending on changes to their spatial arrangement—with the artist’s own hands and its shadow being used as compositional elements to effect these changes. An intriguing recent work, Floating stone – Earthrise (2020) illustrates Uematsu’s commitment to this investigation. Featuring a stone hovering on the moon, with the earth shown in a black sky, the play of object and space has evolved both thematically and materially, created through a modern inkjet printing process. Together, the works in the exhibition are a testament to the artist’s cohesive oeuvre and perpetually focused vision.

According to the Artist: “I want to discover something by making the structure, existence and relationships of the world more visible. I have been working with the idea of making the invisible things be visible. This is sometimes an interest in invisible and universal forces such as gravity and attraction between things, or a simple interest in fundamental objects and cosmic forces. It is also an inquiry into the existence of human beings surrounded by nature, the earth and the universe.

I used to say, ‘looking to the past and seeing the future,’ but this time I used the term ‘looking back on the past from the future’. The word that is currently on my mind is ‘the border between the known and the unknown’. I believe that works of art are born from the border between the knowledge and the unknown. The work that is born contains an orientation towards the unknown future. The work exhibited here is the past when viewed from the future, and the present is also the past when viewed from the future. The future becomes the present, which becomes the past, and the future continues forever. The future becomes the present, the past becomes the past, and the future continues forever. And the work continues to be made, and it is breathing all time.

The deeper the expression of the past, the deeper and denser the thoughts about the future, the stronger the expression of the present. I believe that the attitude from the past to the future shapes the present. I always hope to create a place where people who see my work can share the artist’s spirituality that exists beyond time, and a small cosmic space where they can become one with the work and feel it with their bodies.”

See inside the exhibition and featured works below.

Keiji Uematsu, Stone / Rope / Man (1974). © Keiji Uematsu. Courtesy of Baudoin Lebon, Paris.

Keiji Uematsu, Stone / Rope / Man III (1974). © Keiji Uematsu. Courtesy of Baudoin Lebon, Paris.

Keiji Uematsu, Seeing II Flower (1975). © Keiji Uematsu. Courtesy of Baudoin Lebon, Paris.

Keiji Uematsu, Seeing II – Flower (1975). © Keiji Uematsu. Courtesy of Baudoin Lebon, Paris.

Installation view of "Keiji Uematsu: Looking on the past from the future" (2023). Courtesy of Baudoin Lebon, Paris.

Installation view of “Keiji Uematsu: Looking on the past from the future” (2023). Courtesy of Baudoin Lebon, Paris.

Installation view of "Keiji Uematsu: Looking on the past from the future" (2023). Courtesy of Baudoin Lebon, Paris.

Installation view of “Keiji Uematsu: Looking on the past from the future” (2023). Courtesy of Baudoin Lebon, Paris.

Installation view of "Keiji Uematsu: Looking on the past from the future" (2023). Courtesy of Baudoin Lebon, Paris.

Installation view of “Keiji Uematsu: Looking on the past from the future” (2023). Courtesy of Baudoin Lebon, Paris.

Keiji Uematsu: Looking on the past from the future” is on view at Baudoin Lebon, Paris, through July 29, 2023.


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