Motoi Yamamoto’s salt labyrinths again awe observers, this time in sumter, S.C. Impermanence Revisited

Force of Nature reconvenes in Sumter


From Junko Ishiro’s scorched oil paintings to Motoi Yamamoto’s massive salt labyrinth in the foyer of CofC’s Addlestone Library, last fall’s multi-site Force of Nature exhibit (a City Paper cover story on Nov. 8, 2006) was arguably the art exhibition of the year. Ten Japanese artists conducted month-long residencies at Carolina universities including Davidson, Winthrop, and the College of Charleston, each demonstrating a different interpretation of nature’s ephemerality.

The deep slits Noriko Ambe cut into the walls of the Halsey Institute have long since been plastered over to make room for new exhibits. Takasumi Abe’s interactive “cloud pod” had to be disassembled to remove it from Davidson’s gallery, and Motoi’s salt mazes have been swept together and returned to the sea. The art was created to be temporary, but residues linger.

What physical remnants of the show still exist have been gathered at the Sumter County Gallery of Art in Sumter, S.C., where they will remain on display through Fri. June 22. To celebrate the culmination of the 10 artists’ residencies, Motoi returned from Ishikawa, Japan, to create a new labyrinth, this time utilizing 5,500 pounds of salt in the ornate, antique-filled Booth Room of the gallery. The piece keeps with Motoi’s signature intricate mazes that weave their way into valleys and mountains of the white mineral.

“We’re billing this show as a capstone, but it’s really a reconstruction of the entire project, showing the conceptual underpinnings and the process used to create it,” explains Halsey director Mark Sloan, who co-curated the show with Davidson’s Brad Thomas. “We wanted to create a way for people to get a sense of the artists’ work both through photographs and actual objects.”

For non-transportable pieces like Abe’s cloud, photographs explain the work. Yuri Shibata’s dust prints of a deer and kudzu, made from powdered pigment of the once-living object they depict, are more enduring and will be on display, as are the wind drawings of Rikuo Ueda, who uses elaborately engineered balancing devices to harness moving air into the creation of a picture.

Sloan and Thomas spent four years planning Force of Nature, contributing months of their own time to acquiring travel visas and accommodation arrangements for the artists, as well as gathering funds and endowments for the quarter-million-dollar show. “We made it happen, but just barely,” says Sloan. “It’s like a car with a speedometer that says 120 m.p.h., but you never really take it up there. We took it up there with this show. The doors blew off and the hood blew back, but we made it.”

In conjunction with the finale exhibition in Sumter, a 144-page hardcover book is scheduled for a May 30 release, available through the Halsey Institute. Photographer Mitchell Kearney captured the works and artists throughout each piece’s development, putting the resulting photos on display in Sumter.

As the capstone exhibition concludes in June, Sloan and Thomas will visit the Kyoto University of Art and Design, where the artists will come together for a final symposium, closing out the half-decade-long project. Motoi’s salt labyrinth in Sumter will again be gathered and returned to the sea, where, like everything, nature and time will eventually reclaim it.

See for more information on the Sumter show.