David Zwirner is pleased to present Sculpture, an exhibition by Yutaka Sone in the London gallery. The show brings together the artist’s three sculptures of island cities–Hong Kong Island (Chinese) (1998), Little Manhattan (2007– 2009), and the recently completed Venezia (2013)–each metropolis intricately miniaturized into a single block of marble. Exhibited together for the first time, they span over twenty years of Sone's practice, and occupy a momentous part of his oeuvre.
Across a wide range of media–predominantly sculpture but also painting, drawing, photography, video, and performance–Sone's work revolves around a tension between realism and perfection. A conceptual framework, paired with a meticulous attention to detail, has characterized his practice since the early 1990s, informing equally his self-contained jungle environments, life-size roller coasters, magnified snowflakes, and staged events. His sculptures in particular attest to a profound interest in landscapes, whether natural or architectural, and their ability to capture light relates them to a genre primarily associated with painting and photography.
Sone's inspiration for the island sculptures derives from this captivation with landscapes and a general aversion to national borders. Their self-contained shapes offer him the unique opportunity to present a whole. As he puts it: "I don’t like to cut up a landscape. An island is a single thing: it has no ends, no beginnings. There is no editing, no exclusions." He carves his three-dimensional cities in hands-on collaboration with marble artisans in a village in southwest China, where he keeps a studio. While each sculpture has developed gradually over several years, the technology used has changed significantly. For Hong Kong Island (Chinese), the artist relied on maps, aerial photographs, and frequent trips to the island. To create Little Manhattan, he added helicopter rides and an early version of Google Earth. For Venezia, completed earlier this year, Sone made almost exclusive use of the internet application and undertook only a handful of site visits.
The works offer commemorative portraits of the ever-changing urban landscapes with a refinement that recalls classical sculptures of antiquity. Hong Kong's skyscrapers, housing complexes, stadiums, and harbor are as faithfully rendered as the hills in the center of the island; the avenues and cross streets of Manhattan receive equal prominence to the paths through Central Park; and the myriad canals that intersect the historical district in Venice create a visual contrast to the streamlined train tracks near the bridge to the mainland. Also exhibited will be a new Canary Island palm tree made from rattan woven around a metal armature. Carefully crafted at the artist's studio in Mexico, the leaves, stems, and trunk have been hand-painted and include naturally occurring flaws in their pigmentation. From a distance, the tree looks like its living counterpart, offering an almost perfect mimesis that echoes the perfectionism of the marble sculptures.