Casey Kaplan

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Installation view, Simon Starling: At Twilight (After W.B. Yeats' Noh Reincarnation), Japan Society, New York , 2016-2017. Photo: Richard Goodbody, Courtesy the artist and Japan Society, New York

Simon Starling: At Twilight at the Japan Society, New York closes this Sunday, January 15

 Japan Society Gallery hosts the solo institutional debut in New York City of Turner Prize-winning artist Simon Starling with his major new installation, Simon Starling: At Twilight (After W. B. Yeats’ Noh Reincarnation) this fall. On view from October 14, 2016 through January 15, 2017, the ambitious, new multimedia production by Starling, commissioned and premiered by The Common Guild, Glasgow in the summer of 2016, incorporates major Western Modernist as well as classical Japanese artworks, juxtaposing Japan’s traditional, centuries-old and highly ritualize masked, dramatic theater (“noh”) and its influence on the avant garde.

In conceptualizing At Twilight, Starling looked back to the early 20th century and W.B. Yeats’ dance play At the Hawk’s Well for inspiration. Yeats, who never traveled to Japan but was greatly inspired by Japanese noh, wrote the play alongside American poet Ezra Pound, who was an early translator of noh plays into English. First staged in 1916 in London, At the Hawk’s Well helped spark interest in noh and Japanese culture among Western audiences. At Twilight commemorates the centennial of the original performance and weaves together Starling’s research of classical and Modernist artworks with his own contemporary pieces to explore the impact of traditional Japanse art on the 20th-century Western avant grade. At Twilight reimagines Japan Society’s galleries as an immersive theatrical environment for visitors, including a “forest” of new masks and costumes by Starling (in collaboration with master mask makers Yasuo Michii and costume designer Kumi Sakurai); a video reenactment of the climactic Hawk’s Dance from Yeats’ play (choreographed by Javier de Frutos and Scottish Ballet); and archival materials that Starling used as research displayed alongside masterpieces of early 20th-century Modernism. The installation brings to life the surprising personal and professional interconnections that Starling discovered through his research. Key figures who collaborated with Yeats on the 1916 production are represented as noh masks, including Pound, Nancy Cunard, Michio Ito (the Japanese dancer who played the Hawk in the original 1916 performance) and Yeats himself. By incoporating these notables through newly crafted noh masks, modeled after artworks by Constantin Brancusi, Jacob Epstein and Isamu Noguchi, Starling reveals the multiple sources of inspiration in the arts around WWI. One of the exhibition’s highlights is a mask representing Cunard, based on a 1928 abstract sculpted portrait of her by Brancusi.

Simon Starling: At Twilight includes important loans from The Museum of Modern Art (New York), The Noguchi Museum (New York), the Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art at Hamilton College (Clinton, New York), and the Estate of Constantin Brancusi. At Twilight is organized by Japan Society in collaboration with The Common Guild, Glasgow, Scotland. In conjunction with the exhibition, a new catalogue is being co-published by the Japan Society, New York; The Common Guild, Glasgow; and Dent-de-Leone, London—and is available beginning October 14. The 80-page hardcover book and full color tabloid includes reproductions of Starling’s new works and installation views, with texts by the artist, Yukie Kamiya (Director, Japan Society Gallery) and Katrina Brown (Director, The Common Guild). The artist’s solo exhibition at Casey Kaplan is scheduled to open on February 16, 2017.

 

SIMON STARLING: AT TWILIGHT REVIEWED BY JASON FARAGO IN THE NEW YORK TIMES