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‘Robert Waters: MAN’

by Jeff Hammond

Mizuma Art Gallery — Mizuma Action

Closes on Aug. 14

Mizuma Art Gallery is hosting the first show in Asia of 35-year-old Canadian artist Robert Waters. “MAN” explores a variety of issues concerning sexuality, the body and human mortality.

The figure in “Man at Computer” was made by attaching strips of brown packing tape to the gallery wall and cutting it away to reveal the white surface beneath. The installation looks at the phenomenon of men spending evenings alone at their computer desks — with the connotations of Web surfing and porn viewing — and is an extension of Waters’ interest in life drawing.

“I was trying to find a situation in real life where people were sitting still for extended periods of time, so that I could actually draw a ‘real life’ situation,” explains Waters. “It was also a way to document a significant aspect of our current society and consider our growing dependence on and intimacy with technology.”

That mankind has designed highly advanced technology but uses it to indulge in such primal activities as games and sexual gratification illustrates a core theme of the show — mankind’s dual aspect of mind and body.

The tension between our physical bodies and our desired body image is explored in “Are You a Body or Do You Have a Body!” Here, two images of a weight-lifting machine — a site of body-reinvention — are composed from the careful placing of surgical tape against both a white and a black background, which create intriguing dappled patterns. Like much of Water’s materials, the tape is weak and will deteriorate — echoing a theme of mortality that runs through the show.

“Killing San Sebastian” continues Waters earlier explorations of religious imagery, here overlaid with an interest in how the titular Christian martyr, who suffered persecution, has evolved over the centuries into a gay icon. Ecstasy and sexual expression inform some of his other works, much of it based on homosexual porn — a challenge perhaps to Japan’s censors of morality.

“MAN” is the second Tokyo exhibition curated by Israeli-Canadian-British newcomer to the Japanese art scene Shai Ohayon, who arrived in Japan less than a year ago after a 10 year spell in London.

Mizuma Action is in the Fujiya Bldg. in Kami-Meguro; nearest station: Naka-Meguro (JR/Hibiya lines); free admission; open 11 a.m.- 7 p.m., closed Sun., Mon. and holidays. For more information, visit mizuma-art.co.jp/exhibition/e_1276830563.php