Edwin Ushiro: Gathering Whispers
July 12-30, 2014
Giant Robot/GR2, Los Angeles
By LYLE ZIMSKIND, JULY 2014
Once we start gliding into adulthood, there’s often an inclination to recall the unique opportunities for freedom, self-discovery and imagination which were available to us back in our younger days as something of a paradise lost. This kind of nostalgia can also be a powerful cultural motivator, inspiring Bob Dylan's dream of sitting simply in that room again with all his lost friends, the flood of memories that washed down Proust’s madeleine or the mysterious girl in the T-bird that haunted a young George Lucas’s protagonists.
The 16 mixed media tableaux in Edwin Ushiro’s new show, Gathering Whispers—up at the GR2 Gallery in Los Angeles’s Little Osaka neighborhood through July 30—are not universalized impressions of a general youth culture, but direct reminiscences of the artist’s childhood in his native Hawaii (he lives in L.A. now). “When my friends see these pictures,” he suggests, “they know exactly what’s going on in them.” Virtually all of the works invoke the carefree days and nights of various summers of Ushiro’s youth. Indeed, one of the first pieces in the show, depicting the young Edwin and his brother being led home by their grandmother after the last day of school, bears the all-explanatory title “Days Were About to Get Better.”
Several of these images evoke the kinds of memories that are familiar to graduates of a kind of classic all-American youth: hanging out with pals underneath a bridge, innocent but emotionally evocative obsessions with budding romantic interests (with titles like “Dreaming of You Yesterday, Dreaming of You Tomorrow,” “Once Beyond Reach” and “A Broken Love Sonnet”), trying out daredevil bike stunts. Many also incorporate the legendary supernatural stories that Ushiro describes as a benign but ever-present influence on Hawaiian cultural and social life. The largest painting in the show, “The Lifting and the Releasing,” depicts a lively nighttime gathering of teenagers floating over the houses of a suburban neighborhood in the manner of the legendary Night Marchers of the islands’ spiritual underworld.
In producing these works, Ushiro starts out by drawing his characters in pencil, pen, and marker and adding backgrounds in acrylic and watercolor before scanning the images and using Photoshop to fix their arrangements. The results are then printed onto an acetate surface, on both the fronts and backs of which Ushiro continues painting further elements. Once finished, these compositions are mounted onto Lucite or Plexiglas. The results are strangely luminous, idiosyncratic, and evocative -- seeming to embody the sparkling quality of memory itself.
Lyle Zimskind writes about arts and culture for Los Angeles magazine and LAist.com and has contributed to the LA Review of Books, New York Newsday and KCET Artbound. He is also a former Managing Editor of the Czech Republic edition of Esquire magazine.