Sowing seeds: Tokyo artist Azuma Makoto presents first US solo show at Chamber

Sowing seeds: Tokyo artist Azuma Makoto presents first US solo show at Chamber

Botanically-minded Japanese artist Azuma Makoto has debuted his new Polypore collection for Chelsea boutique Chamber’s fifth capsule collection. Curated by multidisciplinary artist Andrew Zuckerman, it is Makoto’s first solo US show and part of Zuckerman’s year-long exploration of nature and humanity with the gallery.

‘I’ve been following Azuma’s work for a long time – he’s incredible,’ says Zuckerman. ‘I wanted to show his scope from a micro to a very broad sense. These pieces relate how he sees nature and how he processes forms in nature in the most contemporary way.’ For the Polypore sculptures, Makoto grafted gold, copper, and platinum onto the titular lifeform – shelf-like fungi that grow on tree trunks. It’s a tactical continuation of his work, mixing artificial and natural elements.

‘As Americans, we see nature in a very untouched way; it’s at its very highest when we don’t touch it,’ says Zuckerman. ‘In Japan there is a long tradition of arranging nature, such as ikebana [the art of flower arrangement]. Azuma understands that he needs to release the potential of this, and in pieces like Polypore he is showing the rawness of nature by giving us a contrasting touch point with the metal material.’

The show also includes some of Makoto’s well-known pieces, such as photographs from 2014’s Exobiotanica series, for which he made headlines by sending botanical sculptures into space; Crystal Seedcases, one of his earlier projects from 2006; and two new additions to his Shiki 1 collection, an exploration of pine trees through experimental ikebana. Other objects have a personal attachment: Botanical Sofa came from Makoto’s own office and Botanical Bicycle is a fully functioning bicycle that he rode around Tokyo. ‘I live in [the city] so I like to keep reminders of nature close to me,’ he says.

‘Capsule #5’ is the largest collection of objects (37) that Makoto has presented in the US.

‘Andrew’s way of showing the work is really interesting,’ says Makoto. ‘In my gallery I show just one specific piece or one scene, so it is strange to see it all mixed together – I am really enjoying it though.’ 

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