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Naotaka Hiro at The Box


Naotaka Hiro paints with his whole body. The artist stands inside of holes cut into his canvas, wrapping the material around himself and painting in a tent-like cocoon. As such, each of his paintings on view downtown at The Box map the capacities—and limitations—of his own body. 

Arranged in the center of the gallery are a series of freestanding large scale paintings on panels, propped up on bases and arranged in a “U” shape. For these pieces, as well as a series of smaller works, Hiro suspended the panels horizontally two feet above the ground, and crawled below to create his initial marks. He then inverted the process, standing on top of the panel, and responding to the marks he made while contorted below them. 

Hiro suffered from Covid-19 during the pandemic, and alongside the many social injustices that have occurred over the last year, he felt that his “body was crushed internally and externally.” Through his idiosyncratic process, this physicality and vulnerability become visually tracked—scratchy lines and bold colors clash as visceral forms slump and ruminate in tense fields of pattern and abstraction. In the center of the U of panels, a blue-painted bronze figure, cast from the artist’s own form, feels both feeble and strong—as Hiro’s painting practice involves exploring the capacity of his own body, the bronze work, titled “Armor,” becomes a stand-in for the artist himself, resilient and strong, even after a year of turmoil.

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Photo: Naotaka Hiro ‘Armor’ installation view, The Box LA, 2021. Photo by Fredrik Nilsen Studio.