Invisible Cities: The City of Tokyo by Louise Rouse and Albert Yonathan Setyawan

Louise Rouse, Silkscreen Printed sculpture, Drawing, Botanicals, Floral Specimens, Albert Yonathan Setyawan, Terracotta, Tessellations, Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

For the month of November, Hagiso Gallery in Yanaka hosts Invisible Cities; Louise Rouse & Albert Yonathan Setyawan’s observations and reflections of the City of Tokyo.

“This two-person exhibition presents narratives of the “city” by two long-time residents of Japan. Starting from the network mapping of Rouse’s research that explores the lexical traces of different communities flowing in “Tokyo”, gradually reaching for the poetic and imaginary, which connects to the work of Setyawan.”

Rouse & Setyawan

Overlooked Flora of Sumidagawa River

Rouse tells us the story of the overlooked and resilient plants often labeled as weeds. “This ongoing work investigates urban migratory plant life as a form of citizenship.“ writes Rouse in her statement about the series. In their original forms they are examined as botanical specimens in the light of day through exquisite pencil drawings. She coaxes their true essence and beauty out of hiding, going so far as marking each of the drawings with their original GPS coordinates within the city. The elegance with which Rouse treats these eight specimens is reminiscent of Anna Maria Hussey in their detail and size and fondness for the minor narrative.

She tells the story of a city of ignored botanicals flourishing in their hiding spots. They grow in the nooks, the cracks, and the crannies along Sumidagawa River, a once bustling river highway for goods and people, defying those who wish to doom their existence. Their stems, a bit knobby, their leaves a bit scraggly, and their flowers a bit muted and squidgy, they grow to be as unseen as possible, yet capture as much sunlight as possible.

Silkscreen-printed Sculpture

The impressively silkscreen-printed paper sculpture is covered in colorful iterations of the Sumidagawa River rejected plant community. The weeds hide in the shadows of the folds, then pop up in exposed flat planes, and outward bends of the twisted cylinder-esque shape. Rouse’s printmaking work is impeccable, imaginative, and enforces the skill it takes to so clearly state a message. 

Hiding in their own layers of the geometric folds, they juxtapose with a beautiful chaos to Albert’s city of geometry. The dichotomy contained within this expansive folded paper sculpture which feels as if it hangs in the midst of a deep breath. As large as 2000mm x 1000mm in areas it exudes a force of its own, not to be trifled with nor downplayed.

Louise Rouse, Silkscreen Printed sculpture, Drawing, Botanicals, Floral Specimens, Albert Yonathan Setyawan, Terracotta, Tessellations, Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino
Silkscreen-printed Sculpture by Louise Rouse

Terracotta Tessellations

Albert Yonathan Setyawan’s terracotta sculptural works alongside his works on paper tell the story of a city of endless repetition. This city contains great growing walls of squares, rectangles, arches, and parallelograms with stairs to and from doors on every level, neverending. Each shape used to build the mesmerizing geometric patterns feels nested into the next, into the next, endlessly until the residents and viewers are hypnotized by the tessellations into never escaping the city because the walls have no end. 

Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

In the book, Invisible Cities, by Italo Calvino, Kublai Khan begins to disbelieve the stories of cities told to him by Marco Polo. He begins to make demands of Marco Polo to find him a city that is absurd like this or ridiculous like that. After viewing Louise’s botanicals and their iterations on the first floor I feel as if Kublai Khan said, “Find me a city where the weeds float among the clouds, far out of reach of any harm by any one who wishes them ill will.” Then looking up from the main floor of the exhibition I found such a city. The Sumidagawa weeds floating free, their individual parts hanging above it all in a relaxed state. Looking up to the clouds floating above, the layers upon layers of rejected greens drape down towards the viewer. In this iteration they are up and out of reach, safe from those who battle their weed relatives living around the Sumidagawa River. 

Going up to the second floor of Hagiso will provide an ethereal view of the plants floating layer upon layer printed on filmy organza as clear as clouds, yet becoming as thick as clouds. Visit early in the day to catch the morning light streaming through the clouds for the best view of these layers of the various plants which sit next to a window of equal dimensions that looks out over Sorinji Temple which was the original owner of the Hagiso building before it became its present-day cultural facility.

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Published by Studio Deanna

Metals + Fibers + Writing