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Kaori Fukuyama: Between the Lines

The time (and the light) is right for the San Diego Art Prize finalist’s newest solo exhibition

Wave of Change by Kaori Fukuyama.

Photo by Kaori Fukuyama

Above: Wave of Change by Kaori Fukuyama.

San Diego artist Kaori Fukuyama's work is the kind of art that reminds you that light exists.

Ranging from oil on canvas to ink and paper, fishing wire-like monofilament suspended from the walls to light refracting through plexiglass, what unifies her vast collection of work is its exploration of the interplay between light, shadow and color.

In her new solo exhibition "Between the Lines," which opens this week at the small living-room style Sepehri Gallery in University Heights, Fukuyama showcases her simpler work, though a closer look at the plentiful lines suggests the pieces are far from simple. Some of the works are oil on canvas, though the majority are ink drawings on paper. In many of her pieces, the delicacy of the lines and the geometric compositions form optical illusions. Her "Over / Under" series of mostly monochromatic ink drawings — part of this exhibition — can trick a viewer: Are we looking at this shape from above or below? Somehow, both.

Photo by Kaori Fukuyama

Over-Under No. 1 by Kaori Fukuyama.

When asked how much of her process is calculated from geometry or physics and how much of the work's relationship with light is a surprise to her, Fukuyama said it depends on the installation. Large-scale projects require models or pre-planning, but she's more drawn to the pursuit of a surprise. "I'm very experimental and I try not to plan too much," she said. "I try to leave a lot to chance, so that I have some element of surprise. And when that happens, I kind of get excited."

Fukuyama is undoubtedly having a moment, though her career has not been shaped so much by chance and timing as it was by her own careful discoveries. She took the long road to finding her talent in art; with a degree in landscape architecture, she didn't take her first art class until in her twenties.

Photo by Julia Dixon Evans

San Diego visual artist Kaori Fukuyama.

She is one of four finalists for the San Diego Art Prize, and her latest large-scale installation is a new piece of public art attached to the exterior wall of the North Park Target called "Wave of Change." It's a high-profile installation, not just because of its corporate roots, but also given North Park's long-standing role in fostering local art (and, it bears mentioning, the North Park selfie wall culture).

The installation was the result of a local search, which culminated in Target reviewing portfolios from dozens of local artists and selected five finalists. Each of the finalists — Fukuyama included — had a month to prepare a proposal and present to a panel of jurors, including representatives from Target and the North Park community.

Fukuyama's finished installation is a series of translucent, colored polycarbonate discs that protrude from the wall in a massive wave. The pieces, perched high atop pedestrians' heads as they walk near the intersection of University Ave and Ray St., cast colorful shadows on the wall.

Photo by Julia Dixon Evans

Detail of Kaori Fukuyama's "Wave of Change" mural.

"Around noon, especially during the summer months, you see the color come all the way down onto the street," said Fukuyama.

Despite the apparent scientific complexity in her "Between the Lines" exhibition at Sepehri Gallery, there's an overall sense of tranquility in the exhibition. And for Fukuyama, the works reflect a quiet period in her career. Immediately after finishing the North Park project ("That was so public," she said), she retreated to her studio and a very different format.

"Whenever I complete a larger scale work — and this was the largest thing I've ever worked on, the North Park piece — I feel like I need to get back to my own inner self," Fukuyama said. "So that was kind of the reason I chose ink on paper, which to me is a very intimate type of work. The process I chose is very repetitive, and that was kind of right for that moment, where I wanted to be quiet and be with myself and just kind of find my own voice again. And I felt really good, just being in my own little studio and sort of feeling invisible in the world, just doing my own thing. Quietly."

Kaori Fukuyama's "Between the Lines" opens at Sepehri Gallery with a reception on Thursday, Jan 9 from 6-9 p.m.

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Photo of Julia Dixon Evans

Julia Dixon Evans
Arts Calendar Editor and Producer

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI write the weekly KPBS Arts newsletter and edit and produce the KPBS Arts calendar. I am interested in getting San Diegans engaged with the diversity of art and culture made by the creative people who live here.

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