team gallery, inc.
New York, NY, USA

06 – 29 April 2017

A show of new work by Japanese artist  Tam Ochiai. Entitled tarragon,  like  a  cat’s  belly. For  this  show, Ochiai  has  produced  a  series  of hybrid  artworks,  which  feature aspects of  both sculpture and painting. These pieces consist of painted two-dimensional panels, lain on their  backs,  with  antique  ashtrays  embedded  in,  or  affixed  on, their  surfaces.  These  socalled “ashtray paintings” sport the visible evidence of their use, an accelerated patina. The artist intends the ashtrays for employment, and visitors to the gallery are invited to smoke
in the space, dispensing of their ashes and cigarette butts on the artwork. The fact that the ashtrays  are  bought  secondhand  is  significant:  they  are  charged  with  the  mystery  of  their previous  existences,  their  past  owners  and  users.  They reflect  Ochiai’s  ongoing  interest  in the poetic possibilities of containers, brackets as placeholders for their implied contents. The artist  considers  the  traces  we  leave,  the  seemingly  miniscule  marks  we  make,  as metonymies for our lives at large.

The  ashtray,  in  the  past  decade  or  so,  has  turned  from  a  common  functional  object  to  a relative  novelty,  albeit  a  familiar  one.  As  smokers  are  pushed  outdoors – indoor  smoking not  merely  shunned  in  polite  society,  but usually  rendered illegal – these  items  become increasingly imbued with nostalgia, relics from a recently bygone past. Most of the ashtrays contained in these  works  are  from  the  1930’s and  40’s,  collected  by  Ochiai via both the Internet  and  from antique  shops  across  the  world.  By  recontextualizing  the  found  objects, attaching them to the surfaces of these delicately painted and irregularly shaped panels, the artist isolates and enhances their diverse and alluring formal characteristics, without erasing their original intended use or implied individual histories.

Several  of  the  works  on  view  provide  a  new  iteration  of  one of Ochiai’s ongoing  projects, which he debuted  at  Team  Gallery  in  2012  with  the  exhibition Everyone  Has  Two  Places. These  works  operate  on  a  deceptively  forthright  conceit:  each  piece  displays  the names  of two cities, often the birth- and death-places of an historical figure, especially fellow artists, writers,  musicians,  actors,  filmmakers. The  titular  “places”  serve as  bookends,  which not only  chart  the  movement  of  the  body,  but  likewise index the  volume  of  a  life’s  work.  With this  show,  he  introduces  a  complicating  aspect  to  the  body  of  work:  the  cities  are represented by  souvenir  ashtrays – a work  titled Diane  Arbus, for  example,  features  two “New  York  City”  ashtrays. These  mysterious  sculptures  function  as tender tributes  to  their subjects, poignant reminders of the close connection between an artist’s work and life.

Tam  Ochiai  was  born  in  Yokohama  and  lives  and  works  in  New  York,  while  traveling frequently to Paris and Tokyo. Ochiai has been represented by Team Gallery (New York) and Tomio  Koyama Gallery (Tokyo)  since  they  both  opened twenty years  ago.  He  has  also participated  in  both  gallery  and  museum  shows  in  London,  Basel,  Salzburg,  Berlin,  Milan, Amsterdam, México City, Copenhagen, Osaka, Dijon and Brussels.
Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10am to 6pm.