Artist Spotlight: Yasue Maetake

Panta Rhei: Everything Flows, Works by Five Artists on Japanese Washi Paper
April 18, 2023
Artist Spotlight: Yasue Maetake

Yasue Maetake, Printed Tannins on Fiber Relief I, 2019 (A25777)  


          Yasue Maetake demonstrates unusual paper manipulation methods in her latest series of wall hanging bas-reliefs. Exploring the limits of the fibrous washi paper material, Maetake embeds atypical byproducts—steel rust, verdigris, and plant-based tannins among them—which accentuate her formal sculpting techniques. Panta Rhei: Everything Flows is a rare occasion to view Maetake's lesser known washi series which has not shown extensively in the past. 


Yasue Maetake, at her studio in Bushwick, Brooklyn, New York 


Yasue Maetake, Printed Oxidation and Indigo Blue on Fiber Relief III, 2021 (A23904)  


          Yasue Maetake is primarily a sculptor known for her industrial-based abstract objects. Her work examines the hidden opportunities of industrial materials and its waste, unearthing opportunities for unique color, texture, and composition that previously remained hidden. Made by her own hand, Maetake introduces these transformative pigmenting objects as the bonds of the paper form, creating alchemical reactions in the originally white washi. In a similar vein to her nontraditional method of creating color, Maetake sheds the regularity of the picture frame, instead stretching the form into a three-dimensional sculpture. Each piece extends beyond its natural edge, as if a growing organism.     


Yasue Maetake, Printed Oxidation and Indigo Blue on Fiber Relief I, 2018 (A23905)


          Her medium of choice, washi, is a catch-all term for Japanese paper made in a traditional way. Unlike common paper types, the surface of washi has tangible depth. Maetake’s works are constructed from beaten mulberry bark—kozo, mitsumata, and gampi—as well as cotton. These pulpy materials are composed of long and thin fibers which bind the industrial-sourced matter that the artist uses to induce pigmentation.


Yasue Maetake, Printed Oxidation and Indigo Blue on Fiber Relief II, 2021 (A23899AP)


          Yasue Maetake is Japanese by birth and she was trained in Japan, Europe, and the United States. She continues to foster her Japanese sensibility—particularly the Animism-based approach of identifying the spirit of an object or material—in her artwork. Maetake creates a naturalistic timeline, bringing together industrial materials that became available only within the last three centuries with washi, which is a practical and organic material employed for a millennia.


Yasue Maetake, Study for Printed Oxidation on Fiber #3 (A23901)


Yasue Maetake, Study for Printed Oxidation on Fiber #5, 2021 (A23903)


          Though many of Maetake’s reliefs are expansive, her study series—which the artist created as investigations of her industrial pigment printing technique—capture the flexibility of washi as a medium to be manipulated and sculpted on a smaller scale. 


Yasue Maetake, Printed Oxidation on Fiber Relief XIII, 2018-2022 (A25443)


Abstract rusted metal from the studio of Yasue Maetake


          There is a dichotomy of opposites at play here: the raw substance is constantly in decay, always struggling on the cusp of disintegration. Washi becomes a lifeline, halting the corrosive deterioration by binding and absorbing the properties into the papers’ very fabric. The product is a snapshot of a chemical's half life, a preserved scene of impermanence.


Yasue Maetake, Printed Oxidation and Indigo Black on Fiber Relief I, 2016 (A23909)


Yasue Maetake, Printed Oxidation on Fiber Relief VII, 2019 (A23906)


          Yasue Maetake and fellow artists who are working in Japanese washi paper will commemorate the opening of Penta Rhei: Everything Flows at Ippodo Gallery New York with an Artist Talk on April 27th from 5:00PM–6:00PM, immediately followed by an opening reception. Please join us!

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Jesse Gross

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