Miho Dohi uses materials such as yarn, wire, paint, fabric, sheet metal, and tape to create lively, invitingly tactile sculptures she describes simply as buttai, or objects. Each work gradually coalesces into its own form as contrasting elements— hard and soft, linear and planar, bright and matte—come together in intricate twists and layers. The resulting constructions express idiosyncratic identities through rich, multifaceted surfaces. Every viewing angle reveals a dramatically distinct profile, each nook and cranny offering a fresh detail. This exhibition presents a cross-section of Dohi’s recent practice, showcasing her signature balance of visual generosity and a peculiar sense of internal harmony. It is the Kanagawa, Japan-based sculptor’s first in a U.S. museum.
Dohi’s nimble, exploratory approach is rooted in a close dialogue with her materials. Relationships of weight, mass, color, and texture between objects inform each action in the studio, even as her interventions alter these physical and formal dynamics in turn. The artist might build up a work in a particular direction until it loses its balance, tumbling to the floor as its center of gravity shifts. Faced with a new perspective on the arrangement, she continues the process from there, energized by the untested possibilities that emerge.
These improvisational works culminate for Dohi in a moment when, “just when it seems to become clear what is inside and what is outside, they turn completely upside down, and all of a sudden, an object appears quite naturally out of that chaos. Once an object has completely collapsed, something that hadn’t existed in me becomes something that is there now.” Through this push and pull of order and disorder, artistic agency and the tendencies of materials, the creation of the buttai becomes a mutually-constructive act, with maker and object alike transformed in the process.
This exhibition is co-organized by the Renaissance Society and The Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard University, where it will be on view July 17th—September 20, 2020. It is co-curated by Dan Byers and Solveig Øvstebø.