Naotaka Hiro

April 13 - May 25, 2019


Contemporary Art Daily, May 24, 2019
Bijutsu TechoApril 27, 2019



Naotaka Hiro’s practice is rooted in the unknown, exploring the body – specifically his own – in an attempt to better understand our physical form. His artworks cannot be defined by their finished appearance, but are better understood as objects resulting from prescribed performative processes, which the artist refers to as “sessions”. Usually 3 hours in length and regulated with a timer, the Hiro typically finishes a work in 8 or 9 physically demanding sessions. To produce the canvas works on view, Hiro used rope and grommets in two opposite ways; to control the canvas in “Untitled (Two Legs Vertical)” and to control himself in “Untitled (Crawl)”. For “Untitled (Two Legs Vertical)”, the artist put the ropes over his neck to shape the unprimed canvas around him into a bag-like form, standing with his legs through each hole. In this position, Hiro sprayed fabric dye in the first session to large areas of the canvas. In following sessions, the artist returned to the same contorted position and, keeping his body in contact with the canvas, painted the canvas against his chest, knees, arms, hand and head. Testing the limits of his reach, he drew finer movements with oil sticks. For the Untitled (Crawl), 2016, the artist used the rope connected in the center of the canvas to control himself as he crawled clockwise continuously a few hundred times. Tied at the neck, waist and wrist, the artist became a human compass, making the circular marks with oil-stick in hand.


Not limited to canvas, Hiro draws, creates video, and sculpts. The sculpture, Fan (with Upper Body) is a life cast of the artist’s upper body in motion. Hiro laid his body face down, from knee to the top of his head, in a pool of wet plaster and pivoted clockwise from his knees in a circular motion, from the bottom left edge to the right side edge. The artist considers this sculpture as a type of drawing.


Hiro is creating these works without intention to make a representational picture of himself, but to overcome, as he puts it, “the dilemma of the unknowability of my body”. Hiro’s works straddle diverse classifications; painting and/or sculpture, figuration and/or abstraction, self-portrait and self-negation, performance and/or object, enticing viewers with new angles from which to consider corporeality.


Naotaka Hiro was born in 1972 in Osaka, Japan, and currently lives and works in Pasadena, California. He completed studies at California Institute of the Arts (MFA, 2000) and the University of California, Los Angeles (BA, 1997), and Universitas Gadja Mada in Yogyakarta, Indonesia (1996). Hiro regularly joins artist talks and lecture panels at universities and institutions in the United States and abroad, including Pomona College Museum of Art and Casa Vecina in Mexico City. His works have been included in museum exhibitions around the world, such as Made in LA at Hammer Museum (2018) and Hiropon Show at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (2001), as well as galleries including Misako & Rosen (Tokyo), Shane Campbell Gallery (Chicago), Brennan & Griffin (New York), and The Box (Los Angeles). He was most recently named by W Magazine as one of the 6 rising artists to watch in 2019.

Installation Views