“Hideki Kuwajima: Vertical/Horizontal”

by Jason Jenkins

Radi-um von Roentgenwerke AG

Closes May 31

Science tells us that humans are naturally drawn to the symmetrical. Nearly everything — from architecture to dance to sex partners — is seen through the lens of symmetry. But what about art? Mathematician George David Birkhoff thought so in a theory stated the more complex art became, the less symmetrical it should be so as to stimulate to our aesthetic sensibilities.

Obviously, Birkhoff lived long before the era of psychedelia and CG. Complexity mirrored against itself can reign in chaos in ways that makes the discordant divine. The large images in Hideki Kuwajima’s “Vertical/Horizontal” do just that. Showing at Radi-um (formerly Roentgenwerke) in Tokyo’s Bakuro-cho till May 31, Kuwajima’s prints turn random glass objects into unspeakably ornate patterns of line and tonal gradation.

Kuwajima first shoots large still-life compositions of decanters, goblets, ornate jars and candlesticks. Then he digitally folds and stacks the image data, layer upon layer, until individual objects are lost in a serene riot of black and white. Each image acts as a massive Rorschach test, raiding your subconscious to place its filigree. Stare long enough and you’ll see whatever you want to see: Cities, skeletons, aliens, angels, ancient machines — they’re all there if you look for them.

Kuwajima’s prints have been compared to mandalas, those geometric Buddhist paintings created to symbolize the world. If only ours was as balanced.