Kelly Akashi: Encounters: Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle

September 30, 2023 - May 5, 2024
Installation Views
Press release

Material tactility, its possibilities, limitations, and transformation form the core of Kelly Akashi's practice. Originally trained in photography, Akashi brings the medium's concern with questions of time and truth to her sculptural work across a diverse array of media, including wax, bronze, glass, rope, and video.

For this commissioned exhibition, the artist continues her explorations in the mapping of time to locate humankind amongst other consciousnesses along Earth's geological timeline. A large-scale video filling the back wall of the double-height gallery is comprised of vignettes of different kinds of simulated astronomical bodies, in particular the projected galaxy collision of the Milky Way and Andromeda (the closest galaxy to us) in 4.5 billion years. On the floor of the space, a series of "folded earth" sculptures, undulating layers of fired clay, engage earth via multiple referents: tectonic shifts, hills and valleys, the organic swell of the ground beneath our feet. Life-sized, bronze sculptures of hands, always the artist's own, sit atop the "folded earth" sculptures, often holding delicate porcelain and glass forms that draw attention to the fluidity and interconnectedness of her chosen media. Surrounding the sculptural installation are a selection of crystallographs, a camera-less photographic process wherein the artist grows crystals on film and prints enlargements of these forms.

Deftly combining and contrasting scale, time, and material, Akashi's Encounters form a crucible for the vast possibilities inherent in connection and collision. These outcomes may be simultaneously painful and nurturing, destructive and constructive, ephemeral and eternal, fragile and indestructible. Encounters invites the viewer to consider the precariousness of their own material body and life, seeing concurrently both the insignificance and preciousness of one's existence in the scope of the universe.



Image credit: 

Photo by Jueqian Fang