Juri Morioka At Butters

The New York painter transcends the prosaic.

Juri Morioka's paintings are hard to describe in prose. Try as we would to dissect the Zen influences that color this Japanese artist's semi-abstract tableaux—strive though we ought to decipher her heady remarks on opening night about "mark-making" and its ability to influence the viewer's eye movements across the canvas—still we are pulled by the work's evocative forms into the realm of metaphor.

To try to describe the experience of these compositions is to lose oneself in long, smooth Technicolor muscles, striated with dots of color and round flecks signifying flowers, with squares of gold leaf here and there like little cubes of bullion—or bouillon.

Morioka may profess Buddha and placid Fujiama, but hers is the haiku of her adopted home, New York City; her style is built upon Manhattan's grid: the Zen of construction and crosswalks and angry honking horns. The vertical influence creeping into her horizon lines chops away at her smooth, out-fanning slices and subdivides them into blocky, apartmentlike chunks. What's Mine Is Yours, Underground City, and I Can Almost Fly, which evoke the expansive spirit of her Butters show two years ago, have given way to the claustrophobic Voices from the Sky and We Have Plenty of Food for Everyone. Tiny quaint vignettes of geraniums in window-sill planters have surrendered to encroaching circles and mounds. Nature recedes; the city metastasizes.

Why this twinkly new direction? Are we seeing the artist's travels in the Middle East—her lectures and art-fair exhibitions in vertiginous Dubai? Perhaps the externalization of her obsession with right-brain/left-brain knowledge theories? Or is this a nascent literalism growing out of her longtime preoccupation, odd for a primarily abstract painter, with Bonnard and Munch?

On opening night, Morioka endeavored to explain. As a talker she is articulate and generous, but her imagery lends itself more to interpolation than interpretation. Perhaps that's the work's appeal: It is a poem that is better read by the eyes than explained by the tongue.


Gallery, 520 NW Davis St., 2nd floor, 248-9378. Closes Nov. 2.

WWeek 2015

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