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When artist Hiromi Takizawa proposed a site-specific installation for the Culver Center of the Arts at UCR ARTSblock, she not only took in consideration the building's storefront window and its raw characteristics but also the distinct time of the year when the early autumn climate dictates the mood and appearance of the entire city block. The end product is a project called "ULTRAVIOLET," an installation that observes the role of light in architectural and environmental spaces. It is prominently placed at the front of UCR Culver Center of the Arts, facing the downtown pedestrian mall, and it is UCR ARTSblock's entry into and presentation for the City of Riverside's annual Festival of Lights celebration.
Takizawa's work explores her Japanese heritage that merges into her encounters with the nuances and oddities living in the West. She intermingles these dualities into a dialog using light as the impetus for her work. She continues her fascination with temporal duality by connecting neon as material and subject into two separate environments controlled in one space where the viewer is invited to experience the work inside and outside of the building. As a result, "ULTRAVIOLET" operates as part sculpture and part installation instilling the aesthetic of the 1960s minimalist light and space movement.
Light and windows play integral roles in activating the characteristics of the transparent cube designed by the artist as it is viewed inside and outside of the building. She wanted to integrate the external space into the visual dialogue much like artist Dan Graham did with his architectural/sculptural installation, "Two-2-Way-Mirror-Ellipses-One-Open-One-Closed" (2011) where convex, two-way mirrors reflected the layered optics of the surrounding environment. Takizawa's version down plays the optical apparatuses. Instead, she utilizes the raw elements of the 150 square feet project space in the Culver Center.
When viewed through the storefront windows from the outside, the transparent cube refracts a spectrum of bright light generated from neon rods along with shadows of a variety of foliage contained from the inside. The fuzzy quality of the spectrum was inspired by southern California haze that is emitted when the sun sets into the ocean. The artist took into account the physical surroundings of the building during the autumn season and its short daylight span, which is also reminiscent of the fall months in her hometown of Nagano, Japan.
The lit cube appears and functions as both an ornamental beacon to light up the path of the pedestrian walk in front of the building, as well as a light bath to set off a rich contrast to the stark skyline during this time of the year. "Ultraviolet," commonly found in sunlight, is also known to be harmful when short to mid-wavelength are exposed to living organisms. However, a smaller amount of UV or the formation of Vitamin D, can be beneficial to human health. Takizawa expressed that southern California residents are fortunate to have waves of 80-degree weather and brisk sunlight during the autumn months unlike our neighbors in the northwestern states like Washington. Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, Washington is where the artist spent her residency in 2007 and 2010, and had taught periodically since 2009. Takizawa claims that even during the long summer days, darkness seem to fall earlier like in southern California.
The giant transparent cube when viewed from the outside through the building's storefront windows becomes a reactionary exhibition that patterns itself through a particular season's theme. The structure will be on view throughout four seasonal events- Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Eve.
Its shadows cast multiple yet deceiving characteristics. For instance, its possible phantom shadows interplaying with scans of light bear a Halloween motif. For Christmas, the cube itself frolics into the characteristic of a decorative gift. The Culver Center, before its transformation into a cultural institution was once known as the Rouse Department Store from the early 1900s into the 1980s. With these attributes, Takizawa's installation may have shed an ironic response to London's high-end department store, Selfridges which have been synonymous in its initiative recruiting contemporary artists to activate their storefront windows with cutting edge exhibitions.
Takizawa perceives that every element outside of her installation- trees, buildings and pedestrians are refracting in the same way light is refracted from her installation. She states, "My work is interactive and I want people to project themselves in it, and see themselves within the private and public nature of the space." Mid-century, theorist and philosopher Walter Benjamin saw the importance of the pedestrian or the gaze of the "flaneur." Benjamin, in his "Arcades Project," states that "the flaneur seeks refuge in the crowd and the crowd is the veil through which the familiar city is transformed for the flaneur into phantasmagoria. This idea of phantasmagoria, in which the city becomes the landscape, now as a room, seems later to have inspired the décor of department stores." And through the circumstance of Takizawa's transparent cube and all its containment, it has become an installation that correspond to the immediate environment of Riverside's Main Street pedestrian mall.
The cube's installation continues inside the Culver Center as it invites the viewer to preview its containment through a large window portal. The cube is openly exposed revealing twelve neon rods backed by a harmony of lush flora. With a large observation window dividing the viewer from the installation, its presence suggests the notion of looking into a terrarium. The neon rods functions as artificial energy that generates photosynthesis in order for the plants to thrive. The artist created this tableau as a dichotomy to the environment seen on the opposite side of the cube, uncovering a tandem dialog for the need of light for living beings. "There's something therapeutic when you look at light especially the non-blinding quality of neon," says Takizawa who cites her understanding in using light into her work to legendary neon/light artist, Fred Tschida. "(Neon) is often looked at as script and in my piece it doubles as a drawn object. They look like heat radiators for the garden."
A metaphor for Takizawa's interior installation is reminiscent of a photograph taken by Joe McNally for National Geographic in 2009. In the photograph, three children from Lovozero, Russia are being exposed to an ultraviolet light bath to supplement their intake of Vitamin D. "This image sums up my installation. I am amazed by what light could do- mentally and physically, good or bad," claims Takizawa. "And I hope I've achieved something that the viewer can take away when they look at my work from the inside or the outside, or even both."
Hiromi Takizawa received an MFA in Craft and Materials Studies from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA and an MA in Glass at California State University at Fullerton. She has served as a faculty member specializing in Glass at Saddleback College in south Orange County, CA, California State University at San Bernardino, and Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, WA. She has exhibited her work at Heller Gallery in New York, NY, RAID Projects in Los Angeles, CA, 12 Galleri og Verksted in Norway and Ohio State University in Columbus, OH, to name a few. She was recently named as the youngest artist of the top fifty artists included in "Urban Art Glass Quarterly's 50 at 50." She was born and raised in Nagano, Japan. She currently works and lives in Santa Ana, CA.
"ULTRAVIOLET: Light Installation" by Hiromi Takizawa was organized by UCR ARTSblock and curated by Jennifer Frias, Associate Curator, Sweeney Art Gallery, University of California, Riverside. Support was provided by UCR's College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (CHASS) and the City of Riverside.