With your year long Carla subscription, you will receive a new issue right to your doorstep every 3 months.
Our advertising program is essential to the ecology of our publication. Ad fees go directly to paying writers, which we do according to W.A.G.E. standards.
We are currently printing runs of 6,000 every three months. Our publication is distributed locally through galleries and art related businesses, providing a direct outlet to reaching a specific demographic with art related interests and concerns.
To advertise or for more information on rates, deadlines, and production specifications, please contact us at email@example.com
Beautiful Work, Daisuke Fukunaga’s solo exhibition at Nonaka-Hill—and his first outside Japan—features a series of expressive oil paintings, watercolors, and drawings that depict workers who are either on the job or slipping out of it, often succumbing peacefully to sleep. Uniformed men and women lie amid softly-rendered Japanese landscapes and interiors, their long and relaxed limbs splayed out. Formally, Fukunaga’s world is a serene, cheerful one, characterized by his bright, almost phosphorescent color palette and limpid gestures. But such a delicate and harmonious formal repertoire belies the exhibition’s more ambivalent relationship to labor and leisure.
At first, Beautiful Work appears to represent moments wherein social and economic conflicts happily resolve, as workers find time to steal away and indulge in reverie. The resting figures in Sleeping man 2 and Sleeping man 3 (both 2022) seem to still be on the clock, as the flashlights affixed to their helmets remain on, projecting long beams of light across the paintings’ surfaces. What gives these paintings their compelling mood is actually work’s opposite: the figures’ resting bodies are relaxed despite their obligations. But as we gaze upon such moments of suspended productivity, a more unsettling awareness—that these workers’ time is not their own—pervades the exhibition.
The placid face, featureless beyond a subtly smiling mouth and closed or relaxed eyes, is a trademark of Fukunaga’s style that becomes uncanny through its repetition in Beautiful Work. Dance (carriers) (2022), for instance, reimagines Matisse’s Dance (1910), which depicts a group of nude figures holding hands and frolicking in a circle with hedonistic joy. In Fukunaga’s work, however, duty intrudes upon play as the figures are separated from one another by luggage carts on wheels. Their repeated, docile expressions recall reports of smile scanners, devices that surveil workers’ faces to ensure they continually project friendliness and happiness while on the job.1 Pleasure, here, is an illusion that services the viewer-as-customer: your bellhop, ready to handle your luggage, has never had more fun.
The link between the workers’ self-presentation and the voyeuristic desires of those who behold them is clearest in Vague time (2022). In the painting, a uniformed figure lounges on a strip of undeveloped land with the nonchalant elegance of a Renaissance muse. With his hard hat to one side and the setting sun behind him, his curved, languid posture borrows from the visual vocabulary of courtesan paintings such as Titian’s Venus of Urbino (1534) and Manet’s Olympia (1863). These paintings were produced in large part to evince erotic desire, titillating and prodding at the social mores of their contemporary viewership. Like its predecessors, Vague time visualizes a certain kind of fantasy, though not an explicitly sexual one. Fukunaga’s figure is neither partially nude nor regarding the viewer with a seductive gaze. Instead, he reposes as daylight wanes. Japan is known for its grueling work culture,2 so the image of a resting laborer in this context may take on a particularly libidinal charge. Here, and in Beautiful Work at large, desire is articulated not in the sexually available body, but in the body that’s simply taking it easy despite demanding working conditions.
A collection of small bones resting in the corner of Vague Time imbues the landscape with the specter of death, suggesting the popular Japanese term karōshi, which describes fatality by overwork. Fukunaga’s figures do not seem in danger of such an end—not now, anyway—but the pile’s presence nevertheless looms over the exhibition. Perhaps the implication of death gestures toward the fleeting nature of workday peace, or perhaps toward the impoverished nature of a life lived under the scrutiny of another’s eyes. Like 17th-century Dutch vanitas paintings, Beautiful Work communicates a connection between beauty and death in hushed tones, indicating one’s desire to crystallize moments of aesthetic harmony and protect them from decay. Considering this relationship, philosopher Julia Kristeva writes that beauty can act as “an artifice, an ideal, a ‘beyond’” that counteracts life’s perishable parts and the universality of death.3 Fukunaga’s paintings reach toward such an ideal, one that positions beautiful work as the work of representation itself.
Daisuke Fukunaga: Beautiful Work runs from April 7–May 14, 2022 at Nonaka-Hill (720 N. Highland Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90038).