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Learn more about the exhibition "Plurality: The Conceptual Art of Akemi Maegawa" at University of Maryland University College.

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  • THE CONCEPTUAL ART OF AKEMI MAEGAWA

    PLURALITY

    Arts Program University of Maryland University College

  • THE CONCEPTUAL ART OF AKEMI MAEGAWA

    Arts ProgramUniversity of Maryland University CollegeSunday, January 17Sunday, April 17, 2016

    PLURALITY

  • 2University of Maryland University College (UMUC) has a long history of offering a quality education to adults in the workforce and the military, in Maryland and around the world. Our Arts Program supports that mission, displaying works of art and hosting public exhibitions, free of charge, that serve to introduce new and estab-lished artists to a broader audience.

    Given that frame of reference, it is indeed an honor to host Plurality: The Conceptual Art of Akemi Maegawa.

    Akemi Maegawa is a conceptual artist whose works question the world in which we live. She was born in Japan but currently lives in Bethesda, Maryland, where she continues to produce works that make political, social, and economic statements. Her art is imbued with multiple levels of meaning, and every piece helps us examine our world from a uniquely creative and international perspective.

    I firmly believe that art sharpens our vision, deepens our under-standing, enriches our experience of the world, and celebrates the creativity in each of us. That creativity, in turn, fires imagination, nurtures innovation, and drives us to learn and to grow.

    I know I speak on behalf of all at UMUC when I say how proud we are to showcase the thought-provoking work of a truly unique talent in Plurality: The Conceptual Art of Akemi Maegawa.

    Javier MiyaresPresidentUniversity of Maryland University College

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    Welcome

  • 3The Arts Program at UMUC prides itself on presenting visual art exhibi-tions that are creative, educational, and of the highest quality. For 35 years, the program has sought out artists who have spent significant time developing their talent and voice as artists. Although the length of an artists career is not the only criterion the Exhibition Committee looks at when considering an exhibi-

    tion, it certainly helps the committee to trace the progression of the artists work. In this case, with the aid of curator Brian Young, we have been introduced to a young artist who has found her voice and communicates her message through her art. Akemi Maegawa does not have the exhibition rsum of artists who have been producing and exhibiting works for years, but she has created an important body of work well worth presenting in an exhibition.

    Maegawa is a conceptual artist whose works question the world in which we live. She was born in Japan and currently lives in the Washington, D.C., area, where she produces works that make political, social, and economic statements. She creates simple works with dual meanings, such as Baby Bottles with Tank (p. 20). At first glance, the sculptural objects appear to be in the shape of baby bottles. But on closer inspection, the viewer realizes that Maegawa has incorporated sections of a military tank onto the ceramic bottles. Once the bottles are assembled together, it is clear that the depiction is a military tanksuggesting war and its effect on the young who grow up to fight in it or babies who

    have died because of it. Many of Maegawas works transform the simple into something complex, often challenging the viewer to think pluralistically.

    Another such piece is Taste (p. 7). This ceramic work represents the full-size human brain. However, Maegawa created the piece with a straw protruding from the brain. One can only imagine the message that the artist is conveying. Is the straw a symbol of something being sucked out or something being placed into the brain? If indeed it represents either, what is being placed into the brain and what could be coming out? Again, the answers to those questions, as Maegawa intends, are pluralistic and interpretive. Maegawas works take the viewer on a journey of imagination and exploration. More importantly, the works cause the viewer to react, ponder, think, and conclude. Regardless of the conclusion, Maegawa achieves her goal, which is to have her audience look at her work in more than a single way. Her works are what they can be rather than what they appear to be.

    Maegawa received her BFA from the Corcoran College of Art and Design in 2005 and her MFA from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in 2007. She has received many artistic awards, including the Ceramics Genius Award at the Corcoran. Her biography in this catalog provides a glimpse into her artistic career.

    The Arts Program at UMUC invites you to experience the multiple meanings in Plurality: The Conceptual Art of Akemi Maegawa.

    Eric Key Director, Arts ProgramUniversity of Maryland University College

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    Introduction

  • 5Akemi Maegawa: DualitiesBY BRIAN YOUNG

    I have known Akemi Maegawa and her work since 2006, when she was completing her MFA at Cranbrook Academy of Art in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan. At that time, I was the curator for the Cranbrook Art Museum and responsible for overseeing the MFA installation, in which every graduating student is required to exhibit. Even then, I gave Maegawa a coveted spot to showcase her work. Over subsequent years, I have learned a great deal more about Maegawa and her work, which continues to evolve. She harnesses an intellectual energy that resides in every work, no matter how whimsical it may first appear.

    Maegawa was born in Tsu, the capital city of Mie prefecture, Japan, in 1968. In 1995 she moved to Hong Kong, where she worked in the financial field until 2000. But the following year, she enrolled at the Corcoran College of Art and Design, where she earned a BFA. Her education at Cranbrook followed. Maegawa now resides in Bethesda, Maryland, with her husband Ryszard Pluta, MD, PhD, who enjoyed a celebrated career as a neurosurgeon before becom-ing a medical researcher.

    At Cranbrook, Maegawa studied with the highly esteemed ceramist Tony Hepburn, an artist I had known previously from my time at the Arkansas Arts Center. Because Cranbrook is so selective accepting only 15 artists in each of 10 disciplinesmy expectations were high for Maegawa and her colleagues. I later found out that she had received no fewer than three awards for ceramics while

    at the Corcoran. And before she graduated from Cranbrook, she received acclaim in numerous exhibitions, such as those at the SculptureCenter in New York City; the PF Gallery near Detroit; the Irvine Contemporary in Washington, D.C.; and Area 405 in Baltimore, Maryland.

    The Cranbrook Academy of Art prides itself on fluidly mixing dis-ciplines. A ceramist like Maegawa could fully expect to study and immerse herself in other media, despite her coveted place in the prestigious ceramics department. In fact, my strongest memories of my early encounters with her work did not focus on ceramics. Perhaps she first came to my attention when I caught her wrap-ping Carl Milless large-scale statue Europa and the Bull, which is permanently installed on the Cranbrook campus. Maegawa used a light-colored, soft fabric and tightly fitted it around the piece as she did with Wrapping ProjectStudio (p. 7). To keep the fabric taut, she sewed all the seams by hand. As Maegawa later explained, it seemed that people had stopped noticing the imposing bronze workdespite the sculptors fame, the provocative subject, and its prominent location. However, by covering the work, ironically, Maegawa brought attention back to the piece. Visitors seemed to use the transformation as a jumping-off point to discuss the role of public sculpture as well as Maegawas work. Incidentally, Maegawa wrapped this enormous work during a cold Michigan winter. Some people initially thought she was providing a protective cover.

    For her MFA requirement, Maegawa created a provocative concep-tual piece called Wrapping ProjectWish Balloon (p. 4). She asked some 50 to 100 people who had influenced her career to blow into a balloon as they made a wish. The balloons were then installed on a wall, where they slowly deflated as if the wishes themselves had dissipated into the surrounding ether. I bring up these two early works not to reminisce nostalgically about our budding friendship; rather, I want people to understand that even when Maegawa was studying with one of the most respected ceramists in the United

    LEFT: Wrapping ProjectWish Balloon (inflated, detail), 20072015, balloon, fabric, thread, and Japanese handmade paper, size variable (approximate wall installation size 12 x 12 x 1 feet)

  • 6States, she chose to work in fiber, balloons, and above all else, with ideas. In this current exhibition, there is a good deal of work that reflects her mastery of ceramics. There is also an abundance of work in other media, including fiber. But taken as a whole, this body of work is really about the manifestation of ideas into concrete form. When approaching Maegawas work, I would encourage viewers first to consider the mes-sage and then to explore how that message came to be.

    One of the principal messages in this exhibition is reflected in the exhibi-tions title, Plurality: The Conceptual Art of Akemi Maegawa. Cradle to Grave, 2014, is a perfect encapsula-tion of the exhibition. There are eight whimsical and colorful Volkswagen buses that have a reborn, hippie spirit about them. The obvious visual element in these objects is that Mae-gawa has taken a symbol of Ameri-can freedom and consumerism and paired it with another symbol, for example, the symbol representing the opposing forces of yin and yang on the sides of the two red vehicles. On one level, Maegawa is putting on display a reference to both the East and West as they colli