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“Noriko Ambe, Castelli”

Eric Bryent

ArtNews, Janurary. 2014

Featuring mostly new works, this show demonstrated the great range of expression and depth of innovation that Noriko Ambe can wrest from the deceptively simple actions of cutting, punching, and layering paper. In the past she would excavate her signature rambling canyons and twisting wormholes from stacks of white paper and thick art-historical tomes.

For this in New York since 2010, she engaged the work of leading lights from the storied gallery itself. For the most successful and complex of her works here, "Reflected in the Mirror, There Was a Shadow(2013)", she removed vertical strips from a Castelli catalogue that juxtaposed Andy Warhol’s “Shadow” paintings and Roy Lichtenstein’s “Mirrors” paintings. Ambe’s manipulation reinforced the earlier artists’ plays on the ultimately creating a sort of faux-lenticular picture with which the viewers try to sort and reassemble the original works by shifting their point of view.

Lichtenstein was also the point of reference in two other works. Dots on Girls (2013) places a reproduction of a comic style portrait of a young blond next to Ambe’s rendition of the same image in raised, pinhead-size bumps on a white sheet of paper. This Braille version tempted viewers to run their fingers over its surface. For Cutting Without an Outline (2013), Ambe punched seemingly random holes in a large sheet of a paper printed with fading Ben-day dots, thereby creating a work more in the vein of direct homage to Lichtenstein.

In another work, she referred to Donald Judd’s “Stack” sculptures by affixing the drawers of a file cabinet to the wall at regular intervals. But where Judd’s building blocks are minimal and uniform, Ambe’s are filled with reams of white paper showing deep incisions.

Ambe first gained attention with a series of installations, called “Flat File Globes”, that showed similar drawers within file cabinets so that viewers could open and close them as if pulling out small slices of geography and then packing them away. This exploded version, as well as four cabinets elsewhere in the show that Ambe dissected in other ways, demonstrated the sculptor’s willingness to use her own past works as well as those of her forebears in the pursuit of new forms.

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