This solo exhibition by Miho Dohi was originally scheduled to open to the public on April 18, but was ultimately presented in digital forms only due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Images of each work in the show remain available here, as well as documentation of a suite of online programming that took various live and pre-recorded forms.
Miho Dohi uses materials such as yarn, wire, fabric, sheet metal, paint, and tape to create what she describes simply as buttai, or objects. Compact and complex, each buttai brings together an idiosyncratic constellation of shapes and surfaces, conjoined in subtle or playful juxtapositions. These modestly sized works seem to enact a deft off-balancing of their constitutive parts, even as they hold together tightly as lively self-contained forms. This exhibition presents a cross section of Dohi’s recent practice. Co-organized with the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard University, it is the Kanagawa, Japan-based artist’s first solo presentation in a U.S. museum.
Dohi’s nimble, hands-on approach is rooted in a close dialogue with her unassuming materials, which she manipulates to establish interplays between weight, mass, color, shape, and texture. In some works, bright or dark paint can accentuate or soften perceived differences between surfaces, while a matte finish might give a lightweight, airy sculpture a sense of density. In others, physical twists and layers cast shade and modulate the appearance of color, or bring different materials into contact with each other. Each gesture in the studio shifts an evolving object into new configurations and reveals a fresh range of untested possibilities.
As the artist explores these paths, the buttai gradually coalesce into their forms. The sculptures that emerge set their own terms, continually finding new ways to express the latent potential in simple, everyday materials and their mutable relationships to one another. Grounded in its intimate scale, this approach is fundamentally open-ended and driven by discovery. Dohi’s works, in her own words, often find resolution in an unexpected moment: “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.” Through this push and pull of order and disorder, artistic agency and the tendencies of materials, the creation of the buttai becomes a transformative act, a process of becoming.
This exhibition is co-organized by the Renaissance Society and The Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard University. It is co-curated by Dan Byers and Solveig Øvstebø, with Karsten Lund.
Supported by the Henry Moore Foundation, Joyce Chelberg, and the Japan Foundation, New York.