Needles and Pins

16 March - 14 April 2024

The Mass presents, ‘Needles and Pins’, a group exhibition curated by the New York based artist Hiroya Kurata, featuring the work of 20 international artists from New York, Los Angeles, Seoul and Copenhagen.
The artists whose works will be featured in the exhibition are as follows: Margot Bird, Lola Gil, Jordin Isip, Rich Jacobs, Aaron Johnson, Misaki Kawai, Hiroya Kurata, Matt Leines, Raymond Lemstra, Gosha Levochkin, Dan Mandelbaum, Anthony Miler, Matt Phillips, Hunter Potter, Mason Saltarrelli, Koichi Sato, Eric Shaw, James Ulmer, Mark Whalen, and Eric White.
This exhibition provides a rare opportunity to show a mostly international group of artists, many of whom will be familiar to a Japanese audience, alongside artists who have never exhibited in Japan before. Artists such as Koichi Sato, Rich Jacobs, Misaki Kawai, Anthony Miler, Hiroya Kurata, Mark Whalen, Aaron Johnson, Margot Bird, Raymond Lemstra, James Ulmer and Matt Leines have exhibited in Japan on numerous occasions and are familiar faces in the contemporary art scene of Tokyo. They have also often exhibited their work within the context of the Harajuku and Shibuya areas, tying their respective communities on opposite sides of the globe with ours. The exhibition will also introduce a number of internationally recognised artists such as Lola Gil, Hunter Potter, Eric White, Jordin Isip, Matt Phillips, Mason Saltarrelli, Eric Shaw, Dan Mandelbaum and Gosha Levochkin, who having made a name for themselves in the US and Europe, will be showing their works in Tokyo for the very first time. The city of Tokyo has always been a place of interest for international artists and creators, and this exhibition stemmed from the pure and simple desire to show their works in Tokyo, in and amongst their peers:
‘Over the past few years, I have often talked with my friend and fellow artist Koichi Sato, about how it would be fun to have an exhibition in Tokyo with all of our artist friends. When I asked the friends I happened to see that week if they would be interested, they all replied enthusiastically.’
– Hiroya Kurata
Each of the artists within this exhibition have uniquely individual artistic approaches and styles that explore a vast range of themes and concepts. Though there are a number of corresponding ideas and techniques in which to make various groupings of artists, this exhibition does not attempt to establish an overarching theme or unifying concept – an almost impossible task amongst a group show with so many artists. Instead, this exhibition is an exploration of community and how the various intertwining locations and contexts in which each artist lives and works has formed a network of unique bonds and connections. This exhibition therefore aims to show a small section of the artistic community in a different part of the world, predominantly the city of New York, and recognise the real-life relationships that tie each of these artists together. The interlacing connections and relationships between the individuals in this exhibition take on various forms; from close personal friends, to friends of friends, mentors and mentees, and student-teacher relationships – as well as the distinct bond that is formed from sharing and exhibiting at the same galleries. This exhibition is therefore a representation of the organic and interconnected web of various figures that make up a section of the international contemporary art community, many of whom live and work in the same city, or are of a similar generation, and the shared or parallel contexts that help shape it. The majority of the artists in this exhibition are based in New York, and live and work in the Brooklyn and Queens area of the city, sometimes even sharing the same block of studios. For those not residing in New York, they either used to live there and have relocated to LA or Massachusetts, or have close connections to the artists based there, spreading the extended community as far afield as Korea and Denmark. This proximity, both in terms of geographical distance and social affinity, has helped to foster this sense of community, building connections and bridges that traverse notions of nationality or identity.
For Kurata, and many of the other Japanese artists now living abroad, this exhibition is an opportunity to share in the joy of exhibiting in and amongst friends in Tokyo, a place that was once home, thereby uniting these two communities. It also provides a chance for Kurata to reflect on the role of an artist, and recognise how each individual in this exhibition has chosen the life of an artist; a career path that is oftentimes unclear and uncertain, and acknowledge the mutual desire and need to create artworks that unites them. The title of the exhibition ‘Needles and Pins’ is a reference to the English idiom usually written in the reverse order; ‘Pins and Needles’. This phrase describes the tingling or numb sensation that occurs in extremities when the blood supply is cut off to the nerves. The phrase can also refer to the emotional state of ‘waiting for something to happen with anticipation and anxiety.’ Depending on the situation, this tingling sensation can be both positive and negative, and is a reflection of the artist’s constant state of existence in the unknown, something that undoubtedly many artists experience at some point within their careers. What unites these twenty individual artists is the collective necessity to create and show their artworks to the world. Over the years, there have no doubt been ups and downs, but the drive to continue working and pursue a life as an artist and be a part of their unique community is something to be celebrated and shared.
‘I don’t know the details of everyone’s situation, but I think most of them are or have been working other jobs in addition to their own. Some may have worked as art transporters, art teachers, assistants to other artists or in other non-art related jobs during the day. There are some people who also work solely as an artist, but whatever their situation, once they are hooked on the art-making bug, it is an addiction that they cannot quit. In other words, people who have been making art for many years are the ones who couldn’t stop making art, even if they wanted to. There are years when things go well and years when things don’t go so well, and as with any genre, there is no such thing as stability. I often liken artists to children who are entirely immersed in their work, but forced to sell them in order to make a living. To sell your works, in a sense, you have to be recognised by others. This is where you leave your own small world and enter the world of harsh criticism. Oftentimes you are overlooked, or told that you are misguided, but sometimes you are given praise. As you repeat this process, you continue to make your works with both anticipation and anxiety. From this perspective, I thought the title “Needles and Pins” was the perfect encapsulation of this feeling.’
Hiroya Kurata, Artist and exhibition curator
Anthony Miler, Land Is Witness, Oil and Acrylic on Canvas, 876 x 113 mm, 2023