Takesada Matsutani performance @ Hauser & Wirth

A long sheet of paper stretches out across the South gallery floor of Hauser & Wirth. It is itself, a thick white line. At one end are a bucket of black house paint, vinyl glue, a large squeegee, and Takesada Matsutani, who along with his wife puts out a substantial amount of house paint parallel to the short edge of the paper. He then takes a squirt bottle full of vinyl (read: Elmer’s) glue, and draws a thin line down the center of the paper lengthwise.

Returning to the mass of black paint at the other end of the paper, he picks up the squeegee, straddles the line of glue, and begins to walk backward, pulling the paint, like a printer pulling ink through a screen, along the white line of glue. With this gesture he creates a third line – a black line. The paint puddles in the uneven parts of the floor, its ages undulate gently with his footsteps. The bowing and releasing of the paper creates perfectly straight crease lines. It occurs to one that the black paint forms not a line, but a field. Its a line that does not divide an inside from an outside, but is containing itself an inside and an outside. At first the line of glue inside this line seems unperturbed. As Matsutani moves down the paper steadily and deliberately, the white line begins to diffuse, spreading and blurring. One is reminded of a jet stream behind a plane.

It’s a simple gesture made of parallel and perpendicular applications of materials. A simple gesture with lots of variables. A simple physical gesture, the simplicity of which hides a lifetime of practice and craft. The effortlessness Matsutani displays in the performance should not be mistaken for ease. The edges of the black line are perfectly consistent – evidence of a steady, avenue pressure across the length of the squeegee, which is a good bit wider than Matsutani’s diminutive frame.

During the course of the performance (the whole thing was over in less than 10 minutes), I find myself thinking about the nature of lines, of positive and negative space. Watching him, I’m wondering what kind of focus it takes to keep an even pressure on the squeegee – what’s too much pressure, and what’s too little. The occasional thought of, what would happen if this goes wrong? is quickly dismissed. When it’s done, I reflect on how the white line of glue is an apt metaphor for time, for aging. I’m reminded of the Zen concept of empty vessels. The resulting piece is one that engenders contemplation, thought.

Of course, when I ask him what he is thinking when he is making the gesture, his reply is of course:

“Nothing.”

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