In a remarkable exhibition that began with the artist creating an original work out of hundreds of pounds of sea salt, the Laband Art Gallery this fall semester presented to great success and media attention “Return to the Sea: Saltworks,” by Motoi Yamamoto.
The exhibition centerpiece is a saltscape on the gallery floor created by Yamamoto from 275 pounds of salt over a two-week residency that began Aug. 26. The public and the media observed the artist at work during that time, and his painstaking creative efforts are captured in a time-lapse sequence here.
The work and the installation, a West Coast premiere for Yamamoto, was featured on Los Angeles television stations, public radio, as well as in print and on the Web. The Wall Street Journal covered it in its online world and Japanese-specific editions, as did several Japanese-language blogs and television stations.
Yamamoto began working in salt while mourning his sister’s death at 24 from brain cancer. Searching for a connection to her, perhaps seeking to express the impermanent nature of life, Yamamoto turned to salt as a medium for exploring his memory. Salt is a traditional symbol for mourning and purification in Japan, where it is used in funerals and by sumo wrestlers before matches.
Since 2001, he’s been creating large-scale, intricate floor installations, such as the one at the Laband, by pouring salt from a plastic squeeze bottle onto the floor. Along with the installation, which is called “Floating Garden,” the Laband also displayed salt drawings and photographs of other salt projects by the artist. A video provides further insight into Yamamoto’s installation process. A delicate, watercolor drawing using the same type of patterns he creates in salt is on display on a 31-foot scroll that hangs in the atrium of LMU’s William H. Hannon Library. More information here.
Integral to the piece and the Laband exhibition will be the dismantling of the work at the show’s end and delivering the salt back to the ocean, hence, the title “Return to the Sea.” On closing day, Dec. 8, the public will be invited to help collect the 475 pounds of salt from the gallery floor and return it to the Pacific Ocean at nearby Playa del Rey.
There are a series of events associated with this exhibition, including a play, a gallery walkthrough, and a lecture.
The exhibition and associated events were organized by Carolyn Peter, director and curator of the Laband Art Gallery, and gallery manager Arden Sherman. The show was curated by Mark Sloan, director and senior curator at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, College of Charleston School of the Arts.