Our partners at Art Practical are celebrating their sixth annual Shotgun! issue, so today we bring you Monica Westin’s review of Misako Inaoka: Fractured Fauna at Johansson Projects. This article was originally published on September 25, 2014.
Misako Inaoka’s menagerie of upholstered animal sculptures, exquisite quasi-taxidermy, and delicate collage works is immediately alluring. It only becomes clear after spending time with the objects that their beguiling quality critiques our own desires for a benign version of nature, made safe and decorative for our aesthetic consumption. Even when not using the direct, visual language of taxidermy, the show evokes feelings of suspended animation and unnaturalness.
The most striking work is a set of anthropomorphic, almost life-size animal sculptures covered in upholstery, sequins, and other heavily wrought textures. Depicting wildlife such as bears and deer, the figures bow or stand in graceful gestures, and the contrast between form and texture is visually interesting enough to delay a visitor’s reaction, just long enough to be seduced by their elegant design. Only after a double take does the curve of a neck connected to a form on the ground give rise to a quiet kind of horror: the animals are horribly disfigured, leaning beautifully against the gallery floors because they lack front legs, and oversized barnacles or smooth fabric stumps appear where their heads should be. The most disturbing are sculptural hybrids, like a headless bear teetering on piano legs, and uncanny kinetic sculptures, like an automaton bird struggling endlessly in the mouth of a carved wooden cat.