Experiencing Carrie Yamaoka

Within Carrie Yamaoka’s canvases lie galaxies of sediment and color, in patterns faint and lustrous. Staring at them feels like peering into an abyss–though in truth they are preserved in bedrocks of plastic, or mounted on wood panels. Notice, too, how they catch the light, altering slightly at every angle. This, Yamaoka explains, opens up a new world: not quite ours, but not far apart.

For a solo show at PK Shop, the retail-based extension of Paul Kasmin Gallery, about a dozen pieces line the compact space’s walls. Daylight floods in from the glass front, letting details glint and flicker. Called “Are You Experienced,” after the Patti Smith cover of the Jimi Hendrix song, the exhibition includes wood panel and cast resin pieces. Two works capture the texture of bubble wrap, created as the artist rubbed away a superimposed layer of reflective mylar.

In Yamaoka’s mind, viewers should see, or search for, whatever they’d like. “I’m not interested in composing a picture,” says the artist, who does not use paintbrushes. “I leave room for the viewer to complete the picture in the end.”

It is difficult, though, to make sense of the smooth surfaces, which sometimes pucker and undulate beneath a solid translucent layer. And Yamaoka gets a lot of technical questions. “People get caught up in the mystery of how it’s made,” she shares. “But that demystifies the whole thing. In the long run, you’re seeing
something, right? You’re seeing something that’s just there: the result of the process.”

Materials, in states of suspended animation, seem to be moments away from taking shape. “Have you ever worked in a dark room, in the analog days, when you worked with chemicals?” Yamaoka asks. “You know the moment when you stick the blank photo paper into the developer tray? And the image starts to come up? It’s the moment when you’re seeing something emerge, but it’s not readable yet. That’s the moment I’m interested in.”