Naotaka Hiro’s “Two Worlds” Exhibition at The Box, Los Angeles: A Journey Through Duality

Renowned artist Naotaka Hiro returns to The Box with his latest exhibition, “Two Worlds,” running from June 1 to July 27, 2024. This showcase delves into the roots of Hiro’s artistic journey, tracing back to when he first immigrated to America at age 18. Highlighting the psychological dualities that shape his oeuvre, the exhibition features a new monumental work, sculptures, and an immersive video piece.

The Signature Work: “Two Worlds” (2024)

The focal point of the exhibition is the titular piece, “Two Worlds” (2024), a striking diptych comprised of two monumental wood panels (108” x 156”). Installed in its own dedicated space, the diptych encapsulates Hiro’s exploration of the unconscious and conscious realms. The dynamic mirror abstractions on these panels materialize a two-step artistic process, representing the interplay between intuitive creation and thoughtful refinement.

The Genesis of Hiro’s Duality

Hiro’s journey into duality began with his early forays into filmmaking and performance art. Balancing the roles of actor and director, he navigated the challenges of expressing himself in English as a second language. This constant shift between roles laid the foundation for the “two worlds” concept that permeates his current practice. As Hiro explains, “My art practice, whether it be drawing or painting, has two steps. The first is subjective and intuitive, while the second is objective and alert. These personas continuously agree and conflict throughout the painting process.”

New Sculptures: Conversations Between Worlds

Accompanying “Two Worlds” are two new sculptures: “Caving (Bronze)” and “Two Mouths (Stainless Steel),” both dated 2013/2024. These works draw from Hiro’s 2013 video “The Pit (Dancer with Golden Lips),” wherein he wore a mask backward, creating a surreal visual effect. The sculptures bring this concept to life, presenting the left and right sides of a face as though they belong to different cosmos, symbolizing the coexistence of dual personalities within a single body.

Monumental Painting: “The Swimmer” (2024)

Another highlight is “The Swimmer” (2024), the largest in a series of unstretched canvas works by Hiro. Utilizing his body as a tool, Hiro integrates his corporeal presence into the canvas, using dyes, paints, and oil sticks in a physically demanding process involving ropes and pulleys. “Moving across the 25-foot length with spray and oil sticks felt like swimming in the ocean, being buffeted by waves,” Hiro describes. The resulting dots and lines on the canvas signify the struggle and effort involved in this monumental creation.

Revisiting Early Works: The Pit (Dancer with Golden Lips)

Hiro’s 2013 video “The Pit (Dancer with Golden Lips)” also features in the exhibition, providing context for the new sculptures. In the video, Hiro’s backward-worn mask creates a hole at the back of his head, prompting a sequence of movements that study unseen aspects of our physical and psychological selves. This piece serves as a visual and conceptual bridge to his current explorations.

An Artist’s Endurance and Evolution

Together, the works in “Two Worlds” are records of Hiro’s endurance and explosive presence, illustrating the power and energy stemming from his exploration of dualities. These pieces reveal how earlier ideas emerge anew in his latest creations, underscoring the continuous dialogue between past and present in his practice.

About Naotaka Hiro

Naotaka Hiro (b. 1972, Osaka, Japan) lives and works in Los Angeles. He earned his B.F.A. from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1997 and his M.F.A. from the California Institute of the Arts in 2000. His solo exhibitions include “In the Ravine” at Misako & Rosen, Tokyo (2019); “Subterranean & Wanderer” at Brennan & Griffin, New York (2019); and “Armor” at The Box LA, Los Angeles (2021). Recent group exhibitions include “Seven Stations: Selections from MOCA’s Collection” at MOCA, Los Angeles (2020), and “Shadow Tracer: Works on Paper” at Aspen Art Museum, Aspen (2023).

Exhibition Details

  • Title: Naotaka Hiro: “Two Worlds”
  • Location: The Box, Los Angeles
  • Dates: June 1 – July 27, 2024
Lisbeth Thalberg
Lisbeth Thalberg
Journalist and artist (photographer). Editor of the art section at MCM.
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