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Installation view of RYOHEI KAN’s “As You See It” at Yamamoto Keiko Rochaix, London, 2019. All photos by Alexander Christie; courtesy the artist and Yamamoto Keiko Rochaix.

As You See It

Ryohei Kan

Yamamoto Keiko Rochaix
Japan United Kingdom

Preoccupied with the limits of perceptibility, Ryohei Kan filled his solo show, “As You See It” at London’s Yamamoto Keiko Rochaix, with images of seemingly empty white-cube spaces, gesturing to the very environment that the pieces inhabited. By creating these meta-simulations of exhibition spaces, Kan punctured the façades of the gallery, and prompted closer examinations of the surroundings that influence and are shaped by art. 

Endless Gallery (2019) is transparent in these aims. Located in the gallery’s basement, the video metamorphosed one of the walls into a portal, leading visitors through multiple virtual, brightly lit galleries. The one-to-one scale walkthrough glides through room after empty room. The experience is made all the more austere by the clipped footsteps that accompany the footage, asserting an unnervingly anonymous presence in the architecture. The effect is the viewer’s anticipation of an encounter with someone or something, as would be the norm in such a space. This play with the viewer’s expectations of a gallery, and its role as a host to works of art, are reinforced by a nearby intervention, Door (2019). Peering into the silver peep-hole of an inconspicuous door, visitors see an endless vista of white corridors, going from the blank gallery to nowhere. 

Installation view of RYOHEI KAN’s Endless Gallery, 2019, single-channel video: 2 min 52 sec (looped), at “As You See It,” Yamamoto Keiko Rochaix, London, 2019.
Installation view of RYOHEI KAN’s Endless Gallery, 2019, single-channel video: 2 min 52 sec (looped), at “As You See It,” Yamamoto Keiko Rochaix, London, 2019.
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Kan’s photographic works build on this scene. In his “White Cube” (2012– ) series, he captures the immaculate details of a group of interiors. The dim corners of spaces, track lighting, walls void of any adornment besides barely perceptible holes and scuff marks, and polished concrete floors are the images’ sole subjects. These are contrived compositions staged by Kan. He builds meticulous 1:12 scale models based on his collection of internet images and photographs in art books of international galleries, erasing any artwork to reduce the highly specialized architecture to its bare walls. He then photographs these sets, drawing viewers’ attentions to the lack of specificity in the environments. 

Installation view of RYOHEI KAN’s White Cube – 6 (left), 2013, and White Cube – 15 (right), 2015, both C-prints, 100 × 150 cm each, from the “White Cube” series (2012– ), at “As You See It,” Yamamoto Keiko Rochaix, London, 2019.
Installation view of RYOHEI KAN’s White Cube – 6 (left), 2013, and White Cube – 15 (right), 2015, both C-prints, 100 × 150 cm each, from the “White Cube” series (2012– ), at “As You See It,” Yamamoto Keiko Rochaix, London, 2019.

The artist’s proclivity for mixing the virtual with the real is also evident in Palette (2019). Three sheets of paper, each featuring grids that fade from charcoal gray at the top to white at the bottom, spanned the length and width of one of the gallery’s walls. The squares all have a distinctive pattern evoking the texture of concrete. These are the paper swatches used by Kan to construct his mock galleries. Although pinned to the wall, they embody movement through the markings and cracks that resulted from their use, and much like Map Large White (2017), a dizzying, densely gridded drawing based on an architectural blueprint, they speak of the physical experience of space, reconciling Kan’s inert depictions with circulations of activity. Endless White Cube (2016–19), the video placed next to the drawing, added to the rendering’s dynamism with its forward movement through open door frames, more pristine cuboid rooms, and over glossy linoleum floors. There is both a utopic and dystopic quality to the depicted space, which has no traces of what existed there before, and yet, because of this, is primed for what is to come. 

Installation view of RYOHEI KAN’s Palette (left), 2019, triptych of inkjet prints on paper, 335 cm x 112 cm each, and White Cube – 28 (right), 2018, from the “White Cube” series (2012– ), C-print, 60 × 60 cm, at “As You See It,” Yamamoto Keiko Rochaix, London, 2019.
Installation view of RYOHEI KAN’s Palette (left), 2019, triptych of inkjet prints on paper, 335 cm x 112 cm each, and White Cube – 28 (right), 2018, from the “White Cube” series (2012– ), C-print, 60 × 60 cm, at “As You See It,” Yamamoto Keiko Rochaix, London, 2019.
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In line with architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s concept of “organic architecture,” according to which a space’s meaning is ascribed by those who inhabit it, making a building a living entity, Kan’s concern with “voids” creates room for contemplation. Giving insight into the rarely bare gallery, much like Yves Klein’s installation Le Vide (1958), the minimal exhibition had a confounding and disorientating effect. With the gallery fabric opening out into virtual rooms, the viewer was left grappling and perhaps questioning what they really see or what they should be seeing. 

Ryohei Kan’s “As You See It” is on view at Yamamoto Keiko Rochaix, London, until May 17, 2019.

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