"Yusuke Asai: Yamatane"

A remarkable installation by Japanese artist Yusuke Asai painted entirely with earth found around Houston -- 27 different colors -- is now on view at Rice Gallery. The mural, called "Yusuke Asai: Yamatane," dominates the exhibition room, rising from floor to ceiling, sweeping to three walls and even spilling onto the floor, so huge, so vast as to seem uncontrollable.

Rice University students gathered the colors from 11 different sites, making this the widest spectrum of colors representing a specific place that Asai has ever used. Asai calls dirt a "living medium." He has named the installation "Yamatane," Japanese for "mountain seed."

While the color tones are primarily brown, by no means does the mural seem monochromatic, as the range of gradations is very diverse. In any case, the immediate strong impression that you're entering a strange and wonderful new world militates against contemplation of colors -- this is their world and it is up to us to be mystified by it.

The installation room is 40 feet deep and 44 feet across with a 15.5-foot-high ceiling, so the sweep and scope of the mural is striking, but perhaps even more striking is the detail of the drawings. Asai has created a phantasmagorical world filled with creatures great and small, a jungle thoroughly populated with denizens, some resembling familiar animals, others alien to the eye.
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thursdays, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sundays, 12-5 p.m. Starts: Oct. 28. Continues through Nov. 23, 2014

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