Benjamin Morris visits Kaori Maeyama’s exhibition at Staple Goods, where the artist is showing her delicate paintings created with printmaking rollers.
In consumerist cultures, rust, rot, and deterioration tend to garner revulsion, rather than interest or admiration. In her show “Signal and Noise” at Staple Goods, Kaori Maeyama explores the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi—an appreciation of impermanence and imperfection—through her depiction of derelict and overlooked landscapes. Eschewing brushes for rubber printmaking rollers, Maeyama creates intense, suggestive moods, where the sense of a place becomes more important than its minute details.
Though her subjects—a railcar, a train junction, a decrepit truck—are accurately portrayed overall, realism yields swiftly to atmosphere, with burnt-out terrain and misty, foggy vistas predominating. Yet the overall effect is less of loss or nostalgia than of awe at how decay can yield such exquisite textures, palettes, and forms. Standouts include Freedom II, 2018, wherein a riverboat hovers on a body of water so lightly rendered it could be a cloud; and Truth, 2018, where an abandoned structure resembling a church captures a nearby streetlight and hoards its luminescence, seemingly recalling all the illumination it once harbored. Sensuous use of negative space and a high regard for restraint cement “Signal and Noise,” modest in size though it may be, as one of the summer’s best shows thus far.
Kaori Maeyama’s “Signal and Noise” is on view through July 8, 2018, at Staple Goods (1340 St. Roch Avenue) in New Orleans.