Everyday objects of hearth and home are taking on new life in an exhibit now on view at the Hunter Gather Project by local Japanese-American artist Mari Omori, and the result is a new perspective on what we might otherwise overlook.
Omori’s show, titled “The Habit of Being,” is an authentic repurposing of objects such as soap into geometric sculptures and stones into beings, with some past works thrown in for good measure. Visitors who prefer rapid, dynamic and energetic exchanges between objects or between the viewer and the art may be disappointed by the serene and languid quality of much of Omori's work, with the exception of her “R” series. However, those who appreciate minimalism and perspective will find much to appreciate here.
Omori works primarily on paper, and visitors will immediately be drawn to the deep reds marking much of her cochineal-tinged art on the walls. She spent time in Oaxaca, where the locals have used the insect-based pigment to make art and dye their clothing for centuries, and she makes liberal use of it here; in fact, the color is heavily represented throughout the show. This art combines the dye with a perspective on the geometry of everyday objects such as plates and bowls arranged in familiar serving patterns to create otherwise abstract images. Patience is a virtue for Omori, who chose to create these paintings using pointillistic strokes placed close together.
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Of particular interest is Omori’s interpretation of her stone collection. Titled “Stone Diaries,” Omori’s exhibit shows various stones gathered by the artist or given to her over the years, and displayed below are drawings of seven of them. Comparing the two, the visitor gets a glimpse of how Omori views her possessions: She finds aspects of each stone such as texture or color, and focuses on those to re-create the object on recycled paper. The result is akin to the portraits many artists make of their friends and family, except in this case, the drawings are done of seemingly inanimate objects, albeit with an obvious attachment.
As is often the case with exhibitions revolving around a single theme, Omori’s show might be repetitive except for a dash of color by her previous incarnation. Titled “R-2”, “R-4” and “R-5” and produced in the late ’80s, the graphite and ink on paper pieces harken to a time when Omori was not as light-handed as she is today. The smooth, even surface of the “R” pieces, broken by minute lines of color, requires a heavy and steady hand to impress the graphite onto the paper with such precision. This contrasts with her current light-handed approach, and communicates an immediacy that appears to be lacking in her current works. Where her latest works emulate the almost imperceptible strength of water, the “R” pieces represent the structure and opacity of stone. There is no mistaking her message in the graphite : I am here.
“The Habit of Being” is not for everyone, but those who appreciate a minimalist approach to the everyday, with a splash of color, will find Mari Omori’s exhibition a thought-provoking insight into the artist’s views on what we often take for granted.
Through March 5 at The Hunter Gather Project, 5320 Gulfton, Suite 15, open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m.; for information, call 713-664-3302 or visit huntergatherproject.com.