On Dec. 9, “Origination Method,” a three-month, large-scale show dedicated to the works of 56-year-old conceptual artist Yasuko Toyoshima opened at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo. The first gallery room is bright and clean with the light grain of Toyoshima’s wooden works. Smooth geometric lines create an atmosphere of humor and whimsy — and the exhibition indeed has both in abundance — but the show’s wryness and neat presentation mask a profound and lifelong discomfort.
Toyoshima, based in Saitama Prefecture, has spent her career making deceptively cute, almost toy-like works that speak to the systems we attempt to force onto the human experience. This is conceptual art, so viewers may need to pay extra attention to understand Toyoshima’s practice. They may also want to pick up a copy of the works list, which has helpful, straightforward descriptions by the artist in English and Japanese, as the exhibit lacks museum labels or texts. With some patience, they’ll find in the nearly 400 works on display a cohesive worldview about the interaction between a life of rules and deviation.