What to See in N.Y.C. Galleries Right Now | The Unseen Professors

The New York Times

By Will Heinrich


As the writer and curator John Yau points out, grouping the sculptors Minoru Niizuma (1930-1998), Leo Amino (1911-1989) and John Pai (born 1937) as “Asian Americans” is a little reductive — but it may also be the neatest way of encapsulating why they haven’t gotten more attention. Born in Japanese-occupied Taiwan, Amino briefly attended college in California before moving to New York, while Niizuma, raised and educated in Tokyo, didn’t get here till 1959. Pai, who lives in Connecticut, left Korea with his parents as an 11-year-old.

Juxtaposed by Yau in “The Unseen Professors,” though, their works complement powerfully. Pai’s welded steel skirts the border between math and craft, while Niizuma’s chunky marble sculptures reveal the beauty of the stone without eliding the ambivalent violence of carving it.

But it’s Amino, if you missed last year’s show at David Zwirner, who’s likely to be the revelation. Experimenting with polyester resin after it was declassified following World War II, Amino made transparent boxes enlivened with streaks of primary color, transforming the ordinary experience of viewing sculpture by making his objects seem, from certain vantage points, less than solid. The angled facets of “Refractional #21,” a geometric composition of triangles and rhomboids, flicker like an old movie as you move around it, while “Refractional 27A,” whose colors float like clouds in a frozen fish tank, seems to exist not in three full dimensions but only in two and a half. WILL HEINRICH

December 17, 2021
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