Visual Arts

Tradition and Translation: Extension of Nature Presents an Oasis of Tranquility in Downtown Houston

In the lobby of the 35-story Total Plaza office building in downtown Houston lies an oasis of tranquility, as two Japanese artists share an exhibition of consummate subtlety and artistry entitled Tradition and Translation: Extension of Nature. At the risk of being politically incorrect with emphasis on gender, one artist is female, Mari Omori, and her work embodies the fragile sensibility and sensitivity of the female principle. One artist is male, Masaru Takiguchi, and his sculptures embody the strength and virility of the male principle. The analogy falls apart quickly enough, however, as Omori's fragile works are also powerful, and Takiguchi's tough-minded sculptures, especially the ones in wood, show a sensitivity in design that is remarkable.

Omori has chosen here to use tea bags, or tea bag packaging, as her central medium, though they are used so well that the casual viewer would never know it. Her large "Sun Dial" is a circular, quiet extravaganza that is richly textured, and has a spiraling effect, with the outer edges seemingly serrated. It is slightly three-dimensional, and, though inanimate, has a pulsing life that seems to fill the gallery. To my amazement, it is composed entirely of what must be hundreds if not thousands of the envelopes that tea bags come in, a surprising fact that can be verified, if one stands to one side, by visually observing a few envelopes where the print on the backs becomes visible.

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Jim Tommaney