Jason Hirata’s “Minutes” Exhibition at Ulrik Gallery, NYC. Credit: Ulrik, NYC.

Jason Hirata, MINUTES
December 3rd, 2022 – January 28th, 2023

Ulrik Gallery
453 W. 17th St. #4NE
New York NY 10011

In a corner room cast with sunlight and shadows, Jason Hirata debuted the Minutes exhibition at Ulrik Gallery in December 2022. Running through late January, the collection was found up four flights of spiraling wooden staircase, concealed behind an inconspicuous black entrance on West 17th St.

Jason Hirata, born in Seattle in 1986, lives and works in Princeton, New Jersey. Beyond Minutes, the artist’s recent solo exhibitions include Fanta-MLN in Milan and 80WSE in New York. The photographer and videographer often explores themes of subjectivity and ambiguity, allowing the viewer to come to their own conclusions about the works’ elusive meanings.

Blaise Hirata; “Who” (Left) and “Column” (Right) (2022). Credit: Ulrik, NYC.

Upon entering the bright gallery space, illuminated by two windows and exposed white bulbs plugged into the outlets, the dark, sparsely placed photographs create an immediate contrast. The photos are of candles and smoke, a lighter and a hand, and shaded figures in darkness.

What fills the negative space between the works are the shadows of the viewers. Playing into the nature of the exhibit, they create warped visuals that move across the corners of the room and dance within the reflection of the glass frames. In the background, sounds of car horns, whooshing air, and snippets of overheard conversation emanate from a work near the door named “Komár”: an intercom that listens continually to the street below. Also titled “LISTEN,” Hirata assigns to his works names that allude to an individual’s spontaneity, while titles describe a social position, rank, or function.

Komár. LISTEN, 2022. Credit: Ulrick, NYC.

In front of the rear window, there is a small white desk. On it, there are papers and cards laid out neatly, along with a folder which contains a financial contract. Doubling as one of the artworks, “The Borrowers” is a loan agreement between venue and artist.

The movement dubbed Institutional Critique emerged in the late 1960s as a form of conceptual art that critiques museums, galleries, and private collections. Artists working in this vein, like Hirata, use their own methods to expose the ideologies and power structures that surround the circulation, display, and discussion of art. Pertaining especially to this movement, “The Borrowers” reverses the typical trajectories of finance and power. Rather than institutions giving money or exposure to artists, Hirata lent $2,000 to Ulrik Gallery and made the price of his works negotiable, bolstering the young gallery’s ability to showcase a recognized artist.
“The Borrowers” (2022) displays the loan agreement between Hirata and Ulrik. Credit: Ulrik, NYC.

Also unconventionally, the gallery, or borrower, set the terms of the loan (at zero-percent interest), and may pay back the $2 thousand lended at their own discretion. Serving as a record of the show’s materiality, the contract’s display makes the financial operations between artist and exhibition space transparent.

Jason Hirata’s “Minutes” exhibition plays with visual and auditory sensation to supplement a gallery space that otherwise lays bare. The viewer is both the observer and the observed, their distorted shadows integrated into the collection like uncanny clones. Hirata’s works showcase that where light illuminates a space, darkness is bound to follow, a relationship both paradoxical and harmonious.

Article by Natasha Cornelissen for The Untitled Magazine

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