Yutaka Sone

Marta Gnyp for Zoo Magazine #33, 2011

For the past few years, Los Angeles seems to generate such an intense creative energy that it has attracted many interesting artists who have been able to translate the Californian joy of life into challenging art works. One of the artists who has chosen Los Angeles as his base is Japan’s Yutaka Sone.

Little Manhattan, 2007-2009, Marble 21 3/4 x 104 3/8 x 33 1/2 inches 55 x 265 x 85 cm, Installation view of Yutaka Sone ISLAND at David Zwirner, New York, courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, New York

Little Manhattan, 2007-2009, Marble
21 3/4 × 104 3/8 × 33 1/2 inches 55 × 265 × 85 cm,
Installation view of Yutaka Sone ISLAND at David Zwirner, New York,
courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, New York

Born in 1965 and educated as an architect at the Tokyo Geijutsu University Sone quickly extended his creative field by working with different media such as sculpture, painting, photography, installation, drawings and performances. His usage of media is free and so is the artist who wishes not to be tied down to a particular place. Sone can work with local rattan craftsmen in his studio in Mexico as easily as with the marble artisans in a village somewhere in southern China. Perhaps one of a few consistent themes in his oeuvre is his fascination for nature on the one side and for city landscapes on the other. The former is a world created without any human intervention while the latter originates on the contrary from deliberate or spontaneous human activities. Remarkably enough, the human being himself is hardly visible in artist’s oeuvre.

Sone’s artificial nature is pristine and pure like the Garden of Eden before God created Adam and Eve. It is as if the artist doesn’t allow the man to interact with his objects in order to deny him the chance to destroy the beauty of his fake but perfect world. Sone loves bright colors, clear volumes and the haptic quality of an object. In his flat, schematic and seemingly naïve childish paintings, mostly full of green sunlit palm trees Sone seems to embrace the exoticism without mocking it. In contrast, there are also completely different works such as his recently finished city portrait of Little Manhattan carved from a huge block of marble. Starting in 1999 with a break after 9/11 and retaking the works in 2006 the artist hand carved the thin surface of a white marble block into a meticulous landscape of Manhattan. The details of the landscape were based on Google Earth images and the artist’s own photographs taken from a helicopter. Sone carved almost every detail of the city while sometimes only correcting the sizes of the buildings to turn the city into a fascinating clean geometric structure on a shiny pedestal.

What makes the art by Sone so intriguing and fresh is his apparent disinterest for references. Combining organic and synthetic materials like soil, plants, metal and rattan, the artist allows natural and artificial structures to intertwine with each other to create a superficial reality that has left viewers in amazement.