CHICAGO TRIBUNE | february 1, 2008

Technical Daring Gives Ceramic Show its Strength


by Alan G. Artner


"Hone, Tatemae, and", 1990 | 14 x 28 x 5’ inches | ceramic, book, linen, wool
photo credit: Yoshi Hashimoto


The overview of Barbara Hashimoto's sculpture, installation and performance, at the Dubhe Carreno Gallery, gives an experience of a sort you don't expect from a young commercial space.The artist already has had a 15-year retrospective at a gallery in Los Angeles, so one assumes she has overseen the selections from the 17 years shown here. In any case, enough is on view for viewers to discern the development of -- and relationships between -- her ceramic sculpture, installation and performance pieces.

But as important is the presentation, for even though the artist has exhibited twice before in Chicago, her various series of idea-based work require a lot of elucidation, and the gallery gives it through a "reference guide" and much more documentation (including a video of the artist working) than is typical in such cases.

The strength of the show also is carried forward in the greatest number of pieces, the books that Hashimoto wrapped and fired with clay to comment on issues from censorship to narrative in contemporary art. This all is complicated by the artist having worked as an outsider in Japan and India, though, again, her points of view are clarified where they can be -- the ceramics coming clearer than the installations and performances -- by the presentation.

Of course, in the end, works have to merit such treatment, and Hashimoto's ceramics do, though more, I think, for their technical daring than their networks of ideas. The creation of each delicate slab was, in effect, a roll of the dice and leap into the unknown. That she succeeded in creating poetic physical structures to hold her ideas is the thing, and several of the pieces on view will hold the interest of generalists and specialists in ceramics alike.