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"Pull" at Masahiro Maki Gallery, Tokyo
"Pull" at Masahiro Maki Gallery, Tokyo
April 14 - May 23, 2020

Masahiro Maki Gallery Viewing Room

MASAHIRO MAKI GALLERY is pleased to present Pull, the first solo exhibition to be held in Japan by Justine Hill, an artist based in Brooklyn, New York. The fourteen colorfully painted works on irregularly-shaped canvases fuel the imagination and inspire in many ways.

Hill creates abstract works that uniquely bring together primitive shapes with precise color selections. Her work is characterized by the combination of irregularly shaped canvases called “Cut Outs” which the artist considers to be “landscapes”.

Determining the shape is most time-consuming part of the production process, with the shape only chosen after repeated sketching. The artist’s simple, precise lines do not point to any particular thing, but have a variety of meanings. They can be seen in the light of symbols that humans have used since ancient times. In fact, the “feet”, which are a recent motif in her work, reference ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. Once the lines and contours have been determined, the painting process begins. Layers of distinct and vibrant color are created through the appropriate distribution of colors, controlling the levels of brightness, a complex combination of media and the integration of various levels of transparency.

The graphic elements and patterns in the artist’s mark-making give a certain rhythm to her paintings. With respect to these decorative elements, Hill has mentioned that she was inspired by art from the 1970s – the artists of the Pattern and Decoration movement*, such as Cynthia Carlson and Robert Kushner, being particularly influential. Hill’s recent work is more abstract: graphic elements have been reduced and patterns have become more regular. She has further developed her work by combining forms in tightly integrated way, adding elements of collage, and diversifying the media used.

The series, Bookends, constituted the artist’s first streamlined combinations of form. In her own words, “they each consisted of three pieces – the smallest number needed to form a group – and attempted to become a new stable form when brought together”. Furthermore, she explains that she has “always been an artist concerned with rules and in many ways the most dominant rules in our world are not of our making. Physical forces naturally trump societies’ governing forces”. The title of this exhibition, Pull, is thus derived from the laws of nature being integral to the underlying concept of these works: “I often discuss gravity when talking about my paintings because it’s a force we all unconsciously submit to. I like to think my paintings have an internal force that controls them and controls how they need to be made” (Hill).

In terms of what is most important in her process, Hill states that, “each painting is first and foremost about the arrangement of its parts. The way the individual shapes connect and relate to each other is what defines each painting. The key to understanding the work is about learning the force or energy that first arranges and then holds the paintings in their finished form”. It can be said that this force that pulls these shapes together is another major theme in her work. From this perspective, regardless of their strongly two-dimensional and graphical elements, there is a three-dimensional movement that can be felt in those paintings she refers to as “landscapes” – an uplifting feeling, as if a stage play is unfolding before the viewer.

The artist’s latest works, Stilts and Feet, encompass both the changes she has made in her work so far and her newest experiments. The motif of feet that emerged in the Hold the Capstone series (which will also be featured in this exhibition) is even more clearly expressed in Feet. It represents the artists attempt to investigate the extent to which a work with a more rectangular structure could be personified through the addition of feet. In Stilts, the feet have a more marked presence, stepping forward with a sense of purpose and direction. It is as if the negative space surrounding the feet in this work gives them a wide space to roam in, secured by the long, horizontal, arc-like forms.

Justine Hill’s solo exhibition, the first for the artist in Japan, is an opportunity to see the evolution of the artist’s ideas over the past few years, and to enjoy in the present moment, works that will surely continue to evolve in the future. We invite you to view them in person at our gallery.

*An American art movement of the mid-1970s to the early 1980s. Also called "P & D" or "New Decorativeness".