The Retrospective

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Audrey Kawasaki: “Hajimari – a prelude”

January 6th, 2010 by

audrey kawasaki opening ceremony

Audrey Kawasaki’s first solo exhibition in New York City has been a much anticipated event for many. If you’re into Manga, Art Nouveau, sexy & mysterious women or the ethereal, then her work is right up your alley. In this installation, Kawasaki articulates her heritage by creating hauntingly beautiful characters through a combination of strong line work and sparingly used color.

But what does the show’s title, “Hajimari,” actually mean? The press release from Jonathan LeVine Gallery states it best:

“Hajimari means beginning in Japanese, and is a word often used in the introduction of a story. Although it is a theme she does not typically explore artistically, Audrey has always felt strongly rooted in two distinct cultures. Born and raised in America, with parents from Japan, she has been immersed in Japanese culture her entire life. Deeply connected to each of the two, she feels both cultures are very much a part of her personal identity.”

audrey kawasaki opening ceremony

The opening itself was heavily photographed, making the wait to see her work up close a long one. But once there, it was worth it. The layering of light, transparent colors over dark, thick contour lines engages the viewer while the natural markings on the wood lend each piece an added complexity. Many of the background elements are little more than sketches, exposing the pencil markings that highlight the front most subject. My favorites of hers were the works on wood, but there were a few drawings on paper of boys, very shoujo in style with their long locks and sultry gazes, that intrigued me. After the show I was left to ponder their stares which are a mystery, apparently, even to Kawasaki herself.

audrey kawasaki opening ceremony

Kawasaki’s large fanbase was out in full force at the opening, everyone getting their chance at a wee chat, autograph or photo with the humble artist. One person in front of me had even brought along a sketchbook in which she asked Kawasaki to riff. She politely declined, explaining that if she did one sketch then she would have to follow it up with scads, and that wouldn’t be fair to everyone. Instead, she offered that if the girl emailed her, she would send her a little something. How gracious is that? She thanked each person who approached and was charming despite being bombarded with affection and enthusiasm for her work. The line for her prints– purportedly always in the $200-range– was long, too, wrapping around the hallway corner.

Photos simply don’t do Audrey Kawasaki’s work justice, so if you are in New York City, stop by Jonathan LeVine Gallery (529 West 20th Street,

See more photos from the show here
Visit Jonathan LeVine Gallery

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