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Linear-Actions Cutting Project '02: Lands of Emptiness

Jessica Rosin

Art on Paper website, February 2003

Exhibition review of "Lands of Emptiness" at Pierogi, Brooklyn, NY, 2003

Cavernous, but delicate, Noriko Ambe’s sculptures, books, and blocks of paper, large and small, from which she carved dramatic, stunning forms, stretch the properties of the material to intense lengths. The layers of paper in each piece, exposed to varying degrees depending on the angle of her cut, echoed the fragile look of cave walls or flinty sheets of rock.

Most impressive in this show was the series of large-scale sculptures, "Lands of Emptiness Expanding: Linear-Actions Cutting Project," three blocks of1,200 sheets of paper, in which Ambe carved a complex stream of swirls and ripples. The forms are rich with tension-- steep waves coil around corners, flattening into puddles after turning a bend or a smooth, placid surface is interrupted by a sharp cliff-like drop-off. The drama of such forms is intensified when taking into view the solid exterior of the block-- revealing a contrast and tension that energizes the works.

This effect is strongest in one of the large works, in which Ambe’s cuts are only visible by stooping and peering into a small hole at the top of the construction, with the waves and ripples continuing down a narrow yet steep tunnel. It was impossible to see anything past a few inches, and viewers had to speculate what forms were hidden beneath the sculpture’s surface. Although this aspect of the piece was frustrating, the quality of Ambe’s craftsmanship added to the depth of her piece-- stepping back, viewers could long imagine what curves and curls could be found beyond the pallet’s thick walls.

Of the four books in the exhibition, Encyclopedia-Geography of Japan 1 (2001) and Book of Anatomy (2001), which accompanied the large blocks, were similarly carved, but since their surfaces were already marked with maps and text, Ambe’s cuts played against pre-set patterns. The volumes, open flat to reveal the designs, were a good compliment to the larger works, but, lacking the scale of the pallets, left viewers desiring the dizzying depth and twists and turns of the larger works.

Nonetheless, the geographic designs in the books added coherence to the exhibition, acting as a reference for lager sculptures. Together, they formed a substantial exhibition, notable for its simplicity and depth.

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