PE: My first impression of your work and the emotion I attached to it was the evidence of the hand. Your use of paper a very tactile material, collage, and the express knots all impart a sense of handmade. This is in great part why I was so thrilled to pair your work with the Chanel Couture pieces, the exquisite craftsmanship that goes into each piece. How did you start working with this material, why were you drawn to the medium?
JH: I started working with these kite-like elements nearly 20 years ago now when I was still a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. At the time that I started using the kites, I was actually building them to fly in Grant Park and I guess that the craft and attention to detail migrated into my artwork. Materially speaking, I guess that my use of the paper, the wood, and the knotted strings all developed pretty organically out of my kite flying practice. Lots of people are curious about my nearly exclusive use of Japanese papers, wondering if it is somehow a reflection of my (half) Japanese heritage, but, truthfully, I think that I use it because it’s stronger, more supple, more absorbent, and simply better for my specific collage application. I’ve experimented with innumerable other papers, but keep coming back to wash. It has a range of properties that is intriguing and allows me to constantly experiment, adapt, and expand my visual vocabulary.
PE: The sheer number of kite elements in your Skyfarm Fortress and perfection in the alignment of the different cubes within the grid is absolutely awe-inspiring. One cannot help but think about the labor intensive, somewhat obsessive nature of the work. I was wondering how many kite components make up the piece, how long did the install take, and how many people were involved?
JH: I think that there are between 20 and 30 thousand elements in the artwork, but I honestly didn’t count. I do know that I arrived on site with about 30 thousand square elements….and we took some home. The installation itself took about a month working with my seven assistants.
PE: Although there is a rigidness attached to the labor and the use of a Brutalist architectural grid, the balletic components seems to free the work of any type of heavy quality and there is a simplicity in the understanding of how something is made. Are you personally attracted to work that is minimal in the sense that one can see how it is made or are you too interested in work where the process is a mystery?
JH: Good question. I like that there’s very little mystery in how the artwork is actually made. It’s the labor and the focus and the precision that drives it to the next level. Obviously, a lot of the specific design decisions may seem like a mystery to those outside my head, but I think that, for the most part, it’s pretty simple to see what I have done and how I’ve done it. And, that’s a good thing.
PE: Karl Lagerfeld said of his Chanel Couture Fall 14 line in which I paired with your work that the collection is representative of “a journey from Corbusier to Versailles…”, a union between the Brutalist and baroque. Can you speak about the tensions in your own work and how the bringing together of aesthetic opposites can lead to something entirely fresh and dynamic?
JH: That’s a nice Lagerfeld quote and a good idea on his part. I’ve always felt that working in abstraction, it is an absolute necessity to create a context within the artwork for one’s particular visual vocabulary. Obviously this isn’t a new or uncommon idea, as juxtaposition or the collision of aesthetic counterpoints has been evidenced in artworks for a long time. In my case, the artworks are built on a rigid grid structure and that is the foil, against which, the organic, flowing compositions are positioned. Given this grid of units, all of the experiments and elements of chaos that I develop within the work are given context in the piece. Things have meaning because of context and I think that juxtaposition of opposites is a terrific device to give new meaning to the artwork. At the same time, through such universal devices, I’m to continue to participate in the very human exploration of language and meaning.
PE: I of course see many common threads in your work and this couture collection. The idea of this landscape of patterns that you’ve created in an environmental installation I could see being translated into collaboration with a clothing designer. Is this something you would ever be interested in, are there are any designers you especially admire?
JH: I have to admit that I’m a bit of a philistine when it comes to fashion…..given that however, I certainly know that I owe a great debt to the textures and design decisions that drive fashion’s creative engine. It’s everywhere in the art world and the city’s landscape. We’ll see what the future holds in regards to fashion collaborations, but if the project and the designer is curious and the project is fun, I’d be completely willing to jump. In the meantime, I’ve got a lot of projects to keep me busy in the studio.
PE: As I seek surrounding myself with art and architecture for inspiration and to take myself out of my own head. As an artist and with the expectation to be constantly creating, what is refreshing to you, where do you go or what do you do?
JH: I have very simple tastes really. I like to ride my bicycle and I like to spend time upstate where it’s quiet and I can take time to think and dream about new projects and possibilities. While I’ve lived in cities for most of my adult life, I really prefer the quiet, boring, mundanity of the country. It’s the best place for me to work, think, and invent.
Chanel Fall 2014 Couture gown & sandals
Mary Boone Gallery, Jacob Hashimoto, Skyfarm Fortress
Hair by Cosma De Marinis, Makeup by Andrew Sotomayor for Chanel Beauty, Photographs by Tylor Hou