John Maeda: Post Digital  
The gift of John Maeda's art is his ability to turn the tools of graphic design upon themselves. Maeda was a pioneer of the digital revolution in graphic design and throughout the past decade he has explored new possibilities for using and manipulating graphic programs and computers for creative work. This exhibition contains a broad selection of Maeda's output of the past ten years. Works on display include videos, Java Applet's for mobile phones, computer machines, software, sculptural installations and interactive sound and image programs. Also on display are some fabulous examples of his graphic poster designs. Maeda's poster for the Shiseido Company (1995) is a masterpiece of contemporary graphic design. The minimal text and rhythmic linear design combine to create a fluid, spacious and elegant poster. Maeda's parents were born in Japan and emigrated to the United Sates in 1957. His father owned a tofu shop in Seattle. Long hours of hard labor in the tofu shop encouraged the young Maeda to study. An interest in computers at school led him to the MIT Design School where he is now Deputy Director. Maeda uses the colors, styles and programs of graphic design to create works about them. His best pieces, often technologically simple, involve plays on text and fonts. For instance in 'Tap, Type, Write' the program prints a random flow of the word 'BLACK' across the screen. The viewer is able to interact with the piece by moving and clicking the mouse. This produces the word 'WHITE' over the top. The works power is in the ambiguous onscreen play -- are you writing or erasing? Is this just a designer game or is there a wider moral message? Maeda's digital interactions are not games to amuse for hours but rather graphical statements with a visual poetic edge. More recently Maeda has explored a hybrid of graphic and screen imagery in his art. The small painting 'Cow' is a hybrid work composed from wood, black and white paint and a palm computer screen. His most recent works are even more physical and sculptural. In a series of works from last year Maeda has made optical sculptures from a block of Lucite crystal. In 'Backbone' (2000) he glued rows of matches onto the side of the crystal block. The brick like crystal acts as a lens to create a multiple images that appears digitally created. From other angles these works take on a solid sculptural appearance and from other angles they appear as graphic illusions. Maeda describes this as his 'post digital' research. The design of Maeda's 'Post Digital' exhibition itself is stunning. Designed by his friend Naoto Fukasawa, a product designer, it is starkly modernist white. Screens are secreted flush with the walls, images are projected onto suspended Perspex sheets, and cool designer industrial stainless steel fittings are used throughout. Such sleek exhibition design is unprecedented for the display of new media arts. The art of John Maeda's is a dramatic reminder of how computers and software, are tools to be manipulated for creative solutions –not solutions in themselves. Maeda gives us an elegant and very human perspective on new media-graphic arts.

 

through October 21 NTT InterCommunication Center Tel: 0120-144199 Tokyo Opera City Tower 4F 3-20-2 Nishi-Shinjuku Hatsudai station, Keio New Line 10:00 – 18:00, closed Mondays