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Friday, March 11, 2011


'Sone Yutaka: Perfect Moment'

Staff Writer

Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery

News photo

Closes March 27

It's not often you see exhibitions of contemporary marble sculpture. The artists of living memory have mostly shunned the material that for centuries all but defined what sculpture was — think of the grand monuments commemorating heroes of war or mythology, such as Michelangelo's 16th sculpture, "David."

Of course, one reason is that contemporary art education simply doesn't allow practitioners to attain the levels of proficiency achieved by their forbears. You won't hear anyone these days repeating Michelangelo's line to Italian historian Giorgio Vasari: "Along with the milk of my nurse, I received the knack of handling chisel and hammer."

But, U.S.-based Japanese artist Yutaka Sone has shown that there is a particularly modern way for would-be marble sculptors to circumvent their own shortcomings: Make it as a collaborative "art project." The results of his efforts are on show at "Sone Yutaka: Perfect Moment" at the Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery.

That said, Sone's chosen collaborators (Chinese stonemasons in Fujian Province) are not modern-day Michelangelos, and viewers expecting a comparable quality of finish will be disappointed. What redeems the works, though, is the way they combine a material associated with tradition and permanence with subjects that are unmistakably of-the-moment.

One depicts "light shining between the trees" — yes, light rays are depicted in marble. Another shows a Ferris wheel at an amusement park — as though a fleeting childhood memory has been immortalized in stone. The highlight is a giant re-creation of Manhattan Island, complete with every building from the Empire State to the Chrysler.

In five centuries' from now, when the sands of time once again reduce relics of civilization to those sculpted in stone, then these works may become the de facto markers of the present age. What will that say about us?

Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery is open Tue.-Thu. 11 a.m.-7 p.m. (Fri., Sat., till 8 p.m.), closed Mon.; admission ¥1,000. For more information, visit www.operacity.jp

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