Michiko Itatani’s exhibition Celestial Stage on view at Wrightwood 659 Gallery in Chicago featured in The Brooklyn Rail’s ArtSeen.
Consider a few astrophysical titles as example: “Quantum Chandelier” painting from Tesseract Study 21-B-02, or “Personal Codes” painting from Cosmic Geometry 19-B-4 (2019). Albeit at first defamiliarizing, these lunar scenes in fact harbor a sense of quiet ceremonial intimacy.
“Collection Sol III” painting from Celestial Maze 22-B-1 (2022) is a diorama-like picture festooned with alchemical symbols placed atop a golden tiled floor: atomic models, atlas obscura, AI instruments, and other esoteric compasses nestle within this labyrinth. At the periphery, an Azul skyscape seems to bracket the galactic interior chamber. However, within this astronomical elixir any stable sense of three-dimensional coordination is complicated by two apparitional tetra-wires shapes. These fine cubic lines horizontally float into the middle of the frame. As if rotating along a vapor continuum, Itatani’s best satellite pictures contain this unknowable ebb and flow: a mixture of levity and humor, pure imagination and sentient seriousness gloss the surface.
Itatani’s most recent anti-gravitational series “Roundabout Orbit” too reveals akin gestalt psychology. These small-scale cinematic drawings are neither sketches nor studies. Instead, the condensed constellation of cross-hatched kakeami are self-contained works: molecular forms in a propulsive forcefield. In these three alike pictures, magnetic atoms and asteroid electrons dance in harmony.
Similar concepts of space-time configure the artist’s sculptural work: questions of form and scale, objecthood and materiality, absence and presence, repetition and incongruity (think of a cosmically-minded Frank Stella or Cy Twombly). Installed on the second-floor (adjoining staircase too) are three object-oriented, site-specific works.“Unquiet” painting/installation from Radiant Triage 1999-A-2 (1999–2022) is a constellation of repetitive hexagonal frames. The armada of crystal snowflakes flank the grand staircase. Just atop the stairs stands and lurking is “Untitled” painting/installation 78-J-3 (25 by 25 by 85 inches). Composed in 1978, the installation sculpture is the earliest artwork on display. At 85 inches high, this shimmering black box is an object just slightly larger than human proportions. Its polished dark surface repeats the tetra-threaded lines seen throughout Itatani’s more traditional tableau pictures. Formally shifting between a visual vernacular of sculpture, statue, monument, and obelisk, the domineering figure stands erect in a liminal cosmic plane.
Beholden to this final phosphorescent encounter we are invited into an uncanny ballroom of cosmic collisions. In “Cosmic Returning” a golden pearled harp, grand piano, and Borges-like helix bookcase create the tableau. Behind the central montage a dozen sky-blue screens frame a back wall. At the edges her geometric lattice lines invade the scene of stasis. All inside a red room. Seen together, Itatani’s astral planes form a palimpsest of unheard harmonic visions and sonic intervals amidst a celestial sky.