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Culture observed by an art of glass

by D.H. Rosen

All of us go through life with our own set of personal “filters” — emotional baggage and cultural biases that color the way we see the world. This is the theme of the exhibition “Culture Filters.”

For most people these filters remain invisible and unexplored, but for artist edison Osorio Zapata, they are a passion and the driving force behind his provocative work. Born in Venezuela to Colombian parents who emigrated to Australia with their family when Zapata was young, the artist has never been a stranger to cultural misunderstandings. As an adult, he spent a total of eight years in Japan, a place that offered yet another set of cultural and linguistic challenges that continue to inspire his oeuvre.

Zapata’s work explores the breakdown of understanding that takes place when people with diverse backgrounds, customs and perspectives attempt to communicate with each other. These ambiguous exchanges manifest in the form of blurred images projected through pixilated glass screens, or in his signature piece, “Mi Casa, Su Casa” — meaning “My Home is Your Home” — through a symbolic wall assembled from glass and clay bricks, half translucent and half opaque.

With an undergraduate degree in glass from the Australian National University in Canberra, and a Master of Fine Arts degree in the same field from Tokyo’s own Tama Art University, Zapata’s commitment to glass is inherent in his blown, cast and carved forms. However, he also considers the incorporation of metal, wood and clay as essential elements of his methodology.

From Dec. 17 through 22, Zapata’s multimedia creations will be on show at the Gallerie Tokyo Humanite in Ginza, which will host most of the artist’s work created during his residency this year at Nagoya University of Arts.

While Zapata’s creations largely reflect his own ethnic mosaic, they also display a mastery of material and a contemporary edge that makes them accessible to all — regardless of any filters you might carry with you to the gallery door.

“Culture Filters” runs Dec. 17-22 at Gallerie Tokyo Humanite; 10:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m., closed Sundays and holidays; free entry; www.kgs-tokyo.jp/humanite.html.