YUJI AGEMATSU’S WALK ON A B C
By Naomi Barling
Since the late 1980s, the innovative artist Yuji Agematsu has been obsessively using found objects in his work to push the boundaries of what is beautiful and what is waste. The Whitney commissioned Agematsu to survey the Museum’s new building and its surrounding neighborhood during the second half of 2014. The newly renovated museum will be presenting the new work from Yuji Agematsu called Walk On A,B,C from this Wednesday. It will be located on Floor Three, (Susan and John Hess Family Theater) May 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 2015 from 8–9 pm.
Yuji Agematsu, was born in Japan in 1956 and moved to New York in 1980. Daily routines includes walks through Manhattan’s streets during which the artist documents and collects junk and wreckage that often goes unnoticed even though it makes up much of our urban experience. He is now based in Brooklyn and has maintained an archive of urban detritus all the way down to cast-off bits of chewed gum, tattered and illegible printed matter, shrimp shells and lint.
“The city is a machine that creates a new city, new buildings, new shit, and each day I walk around observing and collecting it,” says Agematsu. “There is always something to do, clean up the building, go to the bank, the eye doctor, pay the bills, always some bureaucracy I have to deal with, so while I’m out I make my work.”
The results of these investigations are highly choreographed sequences of timed 35mm slides. The sequences map the three routes that the artist followed, labeled as A, B, and C. Collectively, they form the broad portrait of the Meatpacking District, the Hudson River, Hudson Yards, Gansevoort Peninsula, Pier 52, which is currently operated by the NYC Sanitation Department, West 14th Street, the High Line and Chelsea.
In these images Agematsu explores both extreme surface details and wide-open spaces with their negative space. He deliberately avoided photographing people, finding inspiration instead in the places and things he found. This allows him to then produce what he calls ‘urban portraiture’.
Shot with a range of lenses including a microscope and telescope, the images are at once universal and specific. Buildings, flowers, construction materials, water, pavement, traffic, discarded objects, and sky all coexist and interact in the images. Some images are meticulously collaged or superimposed, and on occasion include dirt or found objects from the street.
Agematsu’s diagram drawings are printed in an accompanying brochure. They follow his routes and detail how they have been mapped onto the space of the Whitney’s theater.
Images will be projected onto freestanding wooden screens that recall public kiosks, subway maps, and temporary construction walls. Walk On A,B,C, considers the boundaries between design and nature, the qualities of administered public space, and the demands of a neighborhood and city in active redevelopment and constant change.
During the run of the show, Agematsu will perform live sound improvisations, manipulating field recordings made by the artist in his native Japan. This new work will be on show at The Whitney from May 6 – 10, 2015. It will be located on Floor Three, (Susan and John Hess Family Theater) and showing between 8–9 pm.