Food for thought‘[...] do not think that good design can make a poor product good, whether the product be a machine, a building, a promotional brochure or a business man. But [...] good design can materially help make a good product reach its full potential. In short, [...] good design is good business.’
Thomas J. Watson Jr., IBM CEO

Shadowing the invisible — art by Kumi Yamashita

March 13, 2010, 10:39 AM

Last year I had the pleasure of visiting both Tate Modern in London and The Pompidou Centre in Paris. The overall feeling that I got was that most of the modern art is born out neglecting the classic art, by going against it, breaking ‘the others” rules. Only few of the modern artists have come up with new, different takes on art. The rest are tied to the context, many times their art being nothing more than unestethic junk unless you know the artist’s historic background.

Such an artist is Kumi Yamashita, from Earth’s sister planet, Japan. Her work impresses through the gentleness of the subjects and especially through the maddening techniques used. Playing with light and shadows, thread, paper and many other materials, her installations manage to surprise, to awe the viewers. Take a look yourself:

Light, Aluminum, Shadow Permanent display at the 2nd floor of Nanba Parks Tower, Osaka, Japan.

Light, Aluminum, Shadow Permanent display at the entrance hall of Takikawa Hall, Hokkaido, Japan.

Constellation (Boy), 2007
Brads and Thread on Board
(the child is a young Muhammad Ali, all made from one uncut thread!)

Pathway, 2007

Light, Aluminum, Shadow
Permanent display at the 3rd floor of Stellar Place Sapporo JR Tower

Lovers, 1998
aluminum sheet, light, cast shadow

You can see more works on her website. There is also a japanese show (hosted by Takeshi Kitano :P) that had her as a guest, you can see it here, on Youtube.

And here’s a wonderful detail of “City view”:

(via Alecs Stan &




Nice works indeed. Yet I’d consider them nice designs (even “gimmicks” if you will) rather than real “works of art”.
As for the few lines about contemporary art at the beginning of the article… hmmm, they feel kind of “undocumented”? :)

Well, you may have a point there, Yamashita’s works impress more through the mediums used rather than through their concept. But they are memorable nevertheless.

Maybe what I said is a little bit rash — I’m not saying modern art is junk in its entirety, but I do think that there is a big difference between timeless artists, like Brancusi, Michelangelo, Durer, Rembrandt (and others like them) and some members of the pop art or other modern art that experimented just for the sake of experimenting. One good example that comes to mind right now is David Carson, who himself said that half of what he’s done is not great or even good. But without that he wouldn’t have been great in that other half.

My point is that many modern art museums are filled with great modern art but also with less-than-good (yes, crap, i dare say it) works, which are there more as historical meaning, rather than for their quality.

Talking about ‘gimmicks’, would you say that Seurat’s or Signac’s pointilism is just a play on the technique and not real art? :) Is for example Douanier Rousseau more of an artist than them, in spite of his naive style?


like in all history until now, 1% remains. .

how many renaissance name we know…and how many they were?

iancu i have a question:
u think that in museums u will find in 50 years, on their walls, advertising work made in our time?

Indeed, I think that some of the modern artists would’ve been forgotten lest for the evolution of modern society (which basicly records everything that happens infinitely better than the former historic periods).

Arpi, I don’t know what to say about advertising in museums. We have graphic design museums already, but it’s more about timeless graphic design than daily, mundane bits. My guess is that there will be some works of advertising present in museums, but those will be the ones that border the artistic, that in some way or another go further than their initial goal, of selling a product/service.


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