Capsule Collection #5: Azuma Makoto
“Human | Nature”
Curated by Andrew Zuckerman
Chamber Gallery
515 West 23rd Street
New York, NY 10011

The Gallery

Argentinian-born Juan Garcia Mosqueda founded Chamber in 2013 with a precise purpose: he envisioned a “unique exhibition space, devoted to exclusive limited edition and one-of-a-kind works of art and design.”

In order to match the unique objects his gallery would display, Mosqueda commissioned MOS Architects to design an equally individualistic gallery space, which was to be situated underneath the elevated railway tracks of the popular Manhattan park, the Highline.


The gallery is singular not only in the artifacts that it displays but also in the creative process by which they are chosen. Chamber exclusively features curator-selected shows and Mosqueda selects an artist or designer to fulfill the role of gallery curator for a certain length of time, leaving his or her own artistic imprint on the gallery. Mosqueda and the curator collaborate to bring one-of-a-kind exhibits every seasonal quarter, called “chapters” or “capsules.”

The Curator

For the gallery’s second curator, Mosqueda chose carefully, selecting American photographer Andrew Zuckerman. Zuckerman is best known for his hyper-real portraits of animals and public figures. Zuckerman will complete a year-long, two-part collection exploring the relationship between humanity and nature. His first installment premiered in September 2015.

For Chamber’s fifth capsule, Zuckerman chose to showcase the work of a single artist, Azuma Makoto. Zuckerman selected this rapidly emerging artist for his ability to transform the saturated artistic subject of flowers into brand new, ground-breaking artwork.


The Artist

Azuma Makoto was born in 1976 in Fukutsu, Japan. He moved to Tokyo to pursue a music career, where he simultaneously worked as a trader in a flower market. At the flower market, he learned the trade of horticulture and developed his artistic skill with flowers.

In 2001, Makoto co-founded the haute couture flower show JARDINS des FLEURS with Japanese photographer Shiinoki Shunsuke. In 2009, Makoto established Azuma Makoto Kaju Kenkyusho (AMKK), an experimental botanical lab. Through AMKK, Makoto continued to create floral and fauna-based artwork for galleries, installations, museums, and commercial projects around the world.


The Exhibit: Capsule #5

“Human | Nature” Capsule #5, curated by Andrew Zuckerman and presented by the Chamber Gallery, is a solo exhibition highlighting some recent work of this remarkable Tokyo-based flower artist. In this show, Azuma Makoto debuts his botanical sculpture series Polypore (2016).

Polypores are a group of fungi with body formations of pores or tubes on their underside (see attached picture, “Polypore”).

Makoto states, “Polypores have super complicated shapes and textures, which humans never produce. Especially, that shape reminds us of a masculine appearance.” Makoto collected original polypores from six different regions in Japan: Tokyo, Chiba, Gunma, Yamanashi, Gifu, and Yamagata. Each polypore is representative of its region. Makoto coated the fungi in various metals: gold, platinum, and copper. The artist explains that he had wanted to use those metals in his work for a long time and decided to combine the inorganic with the organic to create objects of wonder and beauty: commingled botanical structures which expressed what he calls “the untapped potential of plants themselves.”


Alongside the Polypore series, Capsule #5 exhibits SHIKI1 suspended plants (2016), photographs from the Exobiotanica series (2014), objects from the Botanical series (2012), and Crystal Seedcases (2006).

Zuckerman selected two bonsai trees from the SHIKI1 suspended plants series for display. In this series, Makoto suspends uprooted bonsai trees and encases them in open steel box frames (see attached picture, “AMKK”).

Zuckerman also chose several photographs from Makoto’s Exobiotanica series to display. For this series, Makoto arranged multiple flower bouquets in suspension and photographed them in different natural spaces, ranging from desert landscapes to outer space.

The displays selected from the Botanical series feature a range of industrial objects covered in astroturf (see attached pictures, “Bicycle” and “Sofa”). “As the link between humans and plants is growing closer, I think botanical sculpture is not only going to soon become its own category in the world of art, but really begin to take off,” intones Makoto. “I like to brag that I think I am standing at the forefront of this movement.” And indeed he is!

The Crystal Seedcase collection is Makoto’s form of seed preservation. He molded various seeds in glass containers, and some of the seeds Zuckerman selected for display included amaryllis, sunflower, soybean, and avocado.

Capsule #5 opened on March 17 and closed on April 30. This exhibition certainly was in the vanguard, and, as Makoto says, possibly presaged a completely new venue for art.

Chamber’s next exhibit, “Progressland,” premieres on May 19, and one can be sure that it, too, will venture into new artistic territory.

Sources

Baumgardner, Julie. “Art Objects That Blur the Line Between the Natural and Artificial.” The New York Times Style Magazine. 17 March 2016.

Delavan, Tom. “A Curatorial Cavern.” T-Magazine: The New York Times Style Magazine.10 Sept 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/10/t-magazine/chamber-boutique-vintage-designer-juan-garcia-mosqueda.html?_r=0

Azuma Makoto. http://azumamakoto.com/

Kharee-Ghose, Archana. “Q&A: Juan Garcia Mosqueda and Andrew Zuckerman/Chamber Collection #2.” Blouin Art Info. 09 Nov 2015. http://www.blouinartinfo.com/news/story/1275245/qa-juan-garcia-mosqueda-and-andrew-zuckerman-chamber