I like animals. Having grown up in rural Texas with cows and "cy-otes" staring me down on a daily basis, and despite the fact that my someday procuring a lion skin rug or gallant 12 point buck for my wall will likely not serve my dating life well, I am yet enamored with the idea of filling my home with the spoils of great "kills," trophies of some romanticized nineteenth-century ideal of intrepid adventuring. You go places, you conquer things, you put them over your breakfast table or before your fireplace to teach all the other wildlife roaming through Dallas who's boss.
I kid. But, I do often find myself struggling with the idea of taxidermy, in its truest sense. I find it both oddly appealing and upsetting. See, the thing is: I like animals. Like, enough to not want to kill them. The closest I'm getting to a carcass is the food porn over on City of Ate. Which is probably why Misako Inaoka's upcoming exhibition, Muted Imprints, appeals to the very specific and not-at-all-Freudian taste I've outlined here. Inaoka creates breathtaking and gut-wrenching animal figures that shake one's very understanding of "nature" and "artificiality," that which can be conquered and that which, in return, conquers a viewer.
Opening on Saturday night at Galleri Urbane, her solo exhibition comes to us via Boca and en route to Marfa, and it looks like an utter mind-blower. In the best way imaginable.
Per Galleri Urbane's site, Inaoka "carefully construct[s] miniature environments that evoke wilderness, but are grounded in technology." With a keen interest in the "boundary between what we call natural and artificial," Inaoka's work simulates nature in all of its uninhibited beauty, all the while inverting a viewer's understanding of "the natural." While her chirping birds and "pulsating moss walls" may seem disquieting in their mechanical revolutions - many are hybrids reminiscent of Cyborgs, if you will - their eerie movements cause one to deconstruct the idea of "creation" and "design." Are artificially constructed "animals" less beautiful than those existing in nature? And, if so, what are we to make of her other creatures, one's appearing not with camcorders as heads, but instead like genetic mutations - think a two-headed lamb - the likes of which, while rare, actually exist in the natural world. Is nature still "good?" Still "natural?" From what I've seen from Galleri Urbane, Inaoka's site-specific installation has all the potential to shatter such ontological assumptions, leaving one pleasantly disoriented long after one has moved along to another gallery.
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Part of my confidence lies in the fact that Inaoka is a graduate of Mills College where she received her MFA in 2006 following a BFA from RISD in 2001. I lived with some Mills College women back in D.C., and as a result, I've seen things that cannot be unseen. Wonderful, terrifying, amazing things. I suspect her work will represent her free-spirited and forward-thinking alma matter well.
Muted Imprints opens at Galleri Urbane at 2277 Monitor St. on June 23 with an opening reception from 5:00 to 8:30 p.m. Catch it before its Marfa exodus come September.