Artforum February 2016 Review

February 5, 2016

Through they are ostensibly abstract, many of the works in this show- Polygonal Line, 1979; Howa Howa, 1978; Two in Order, 1985; White Triangle in the Black, 1979; and the more recent White Triangle and Black Flows, 2006- can be read as landscapes. In each, a dark band along the bottom margin delineates the bleak horizon, and an airbrushed field lights up the sky in a chilly, crepuscular gradient. Motonaga fills this empty space with unsual shapes, like floating orbs and folding ribbons, and the impression we get is that of sci-fi spacecraft or quasi-animate kites. Certain of these motifs reoccur across his compositions, but they are always shifting, alive and amoeboid, and never feel routine. The landscape itself is front and center in his drawings for Moko MokoMoko, a children’s book that was released in 1977 and sold more than a million copies in Japan. (The full set of original drawings, dated 1976, we on view here.) The wonderfully bizarre sequence of images, done in dense, saturated acrylic, chronicles the fate of a mountain as it burts from the ground, devours a brightly colored tree, and then explodes into an array of flying sauces that race off toward the pages’ margins.