Barbara Hashimoto

March 8 - May 10, 2014 | Lubeznik Center for the Arts

101 W 2 St, Michigan City, Indiana {219.874.4900}

Barbara Hashimoto
On Becoming Bronze, shredded architectural plans, wax, linen thread, bronze, each ball 2" diameter (2014)

The exploration of process and materials has been a driving force in Barbara Hashimoto’s visual and performance work for 24 years.  Embracing a broad array of media and formats, she finds the manipulation and transformation of materials as well as the physicality of work and performance, catalysts for her ideas.   The foundation of her practice was built during her early tenure in Japan as a potter’s apprentice and student of tea ceremony, papermaking, and butoh. 

Hashimoto’s environmental art project, Junk Mail Experiment has been the major focus of her work since 2006.  As a newly situated artist-in-residence at a Chicago-based architecture firm, she was immediately intrigued by the abundance of junk mail the company received.  Her subsequent research uncovered  some startling statistics, such as 100 million trees are cut down to produce junk mail annually, 44% of junk mail goes unopened into landfill, and the average American will spend 8 months of his life handling junk mail. Determined to get a visual and physical perspective on these facts, Hashimoto collected and hand-shredded the junk mail delivered to her studio address for one year. The resulting 3,000-cubic feet of shredded junk mail was the material foundation for an expansive body of work exhibited in Paris (Museé du Montparnasse), Los Angeles (LA Contemporary), Chicago (in two solo exhibitions at Dubhe Carreño Gallery and a one-year residency at an exhibition space in the Chicago Arts District), and elsewhere.

For this exhibition at the Lubeznik Center for the Arts, documentation and selected work highlighting the evolution of Junk Mail Experiment are presented along with new work that illustrates the artist’s recent shift towards the project’s culmination.  The earlier phases of the project emphasized the environmental and personal burden of junk mail through large-scale installations and audience engagement.  The inclusion of “junk mail facts” and her collaborations with environmental activists within the exhibition context provided an almost didactic approach. In reference to the title of the Lubeznik show – no word was left unspoken.  In contrast, the final chapter of Junk Mail Experiment provides a focus on the essence of the materials and the creation of discreet intimate objects.

In December 2012 Hashimoto took her first action towards the conclusion of this project through the performative installation Junk Mail Burning. In a bold move, she set fire to half of her collected shreds in a two-evening event reminiscent of the Dondoyaki  Ritual Burnings she experienced during her tenure in Japan.In Dondoyaki, participants burn unwanted objects in large communal bonfires to mark the beginning of a New Year cycle. As the ashes from Dundoyaki are utilized to fertilize next year’s crops in Japan, Hashimoto is using ashes from her fire to incorporate into the final works of this project.

At the Lubeznik exhibition, the triptych “Shreds, Ashes, Sheets”,   is a formal presentation of redacted materials. Shreds from her initial one-year collection  (worn and soften from their years of use in various installations) are placed alongside ashes from Junk Mail Burning and 130 sheets of paper formed from junk mail shreds at Andrea Peterson’s studio in LePorte Indiana.  Peterson, a highly regarded papermaker, opened her studio to allow Hashimoto to recycle 10 pounds of her shreds back into paper. 

In the end, Hashimoto intends to draw on this paper with her ash-based medium and to fire the remaining shreds with clay and ash glazes. What will remain, she suspects, will be just art and What is Left Unspoken.

junkmail facts source:

Barbara Hashimoto
130 sheets of paper formed from junk mail shreds, each sheet 20 x 20", (2014)