XIEM GALLERY | 2005 | Exhibition Essay

Barbara Hashimoto: Solo Exhibition in Two Parts
Part One: How Comes It To Be Furnished?
Part Two: Return To Tabulae Rasae

by Suzette Munnik | Gallery Director

"Primary Notions", 2005 | 26 x 22 inches | ceramic, book
photo credit: Yoshi Hashimoto

Functioning as both requiem and prelude, How Comes It to be Furnished? marks a shift in the artist’s orientation. Carefully elucidating the passage of past themes, it lays the foundation for a deeper appreciation of the most recent work. Conceived to be as spare and elegant as her impeccably nuanced compositions, Part One distills the artist’s passionate engagement with theme and process over the past 15 years into a succinctly potent retrospective.

The show’s title references John Locke’s 18th century ruminations on the links between experience and the cognitive and affective development of the individual; its content effectively chronicles the distinctly contemporary evolution of the ceramic-based book works for which Hashimoto is best known - from their inception as bound, three-dimensional, clay-impregnated and incinerated manga comics, made during the artist’s seven-year sojourn in Japan, through their transformation into enigmatic, wafer-thin tablets of clay. Poignantly bearing the stigmata of trial by fire, these ceramic works are additionally contextualised by the juxtaposition of photographic images and fragments of early and late sculptural installations.

The astonishing contrast between the visceral physicality of Hashimoto’s multi-media practice and the sublime refinement of the works on show is amplified by the inclusion of a documentary video presentation by Carlos F. Grasso.

Tabula Rasa (Latin: "scraped tablet") is often translated as "blank slate". An empirical premise positing experience as the sole author of identity, applied metaphorically, the term implies the blank slate of pre-cognition; potentiality without prejudice.

In Return to Tabulae Rasae, Part Two of Barbara Hashimoto's solo show at Xiem Gallery, this critically acclaimed LA-based artist presents a new body of work. Hashimoto's 15-year exploration of the book form evolved - through sculpture, performance and installation, from the initial censoring, binding, incineration and final cracking open of fired ceramic books, to evocative constructions of neo-narrative ceramic tablets. Relinquishing such narrative accretion to explore the dynamics of erasure, in this show the artist eschews cultural critique in favor of a liminal exploration of the "scraped tablet" and succeeds masterfully in rendering literal translation figurative.

Return To Tabulae Rasae says more with less. Interrogating essence and conflating space with time, Hashimoto illuminates the theme of personal odyssey and dares to postulate, via the absence of presence, an absence of absence.

Reflecting on her choice of titles How Comes It To Be Furnished? and Return to Tabulae Rasae, the artist cites John Locke (1632-1704), credited with initiating the concept of the Tabula Rasa, or blank slate, as a preliminary stage of cognitive and affective development. The following lines are from John Locke's "Essay Concerning Human Understanding":

Let us then suppose the mind to be, as we say, white paper void of all characters, without any ideas. How comes it to be furnished? Whence comes it by that vast store which the busy and boundless fancy of man has painted on it with an almost endless variety? Whence has it all the materials of reason and knowledge? To this I answer, in one word, experience.