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Minoru and Echiko Ohira are united not only by familial ties but also by cultural and stylistic ones. In this exhibition, Of Materials and Memory, we are invited to view each of their work independently and also to observe their shared and complimentary sensibilities. Both artists Work primarily with materials that the world has discarded and they have salvaged. Consequently the pieces are imbued with a physical memory of their own. Additionally, Minoru and Echiko Ohira draw, upon their cultural and personal histories as primary sources of inspiration.

Of Materials and Memory provides an opportunity for us to see the overlapping of two individual lives and means of artistic expression. Both Minoru and Echiko Ohira have an extraordinary sensitivity to materials and a willingness to deeply explore the emotional and physical potential of the substances they have chosen.

Curator, El Camino College Art Gallery

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Minoru Ohira
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Born in a rice farming family in Niigata, Japan, Minoru Ohira received his master’s degree from the Tokyo National University of Arts in 1977. His education was comprehensive, including painting, drafting, subtractive and additive sculpture. Despite the sophistication of his art background a primal undercurrent runs throughout his work. Since childhood the grace and power of so-called primitive architecture and sculpture have captivated him, He finds inspiration in the buildings, carvings and fetishes of Pre-Columbian Mexico, and in the pervasive love of nature of his native Japan. Fueled by fascination for primitive culture, the Ohira’s moved to Mexico where they lived and studied for three years prior to moving to the United States.

The sculptures of Minoru Ohira sometimes turn urban rubble scavenged from construction sites, into silent totemic figures, sometimes into bristing structures, swirling with motion.

Santa Ana Winds, wood
40" x 73" x 15"

Post-minimal in feeling, Ohira’s 3-dimensional works are assembled over complex wood armatures upon which he staples and glues strips of Wood or pieces of slate.

Dancer, slate on wood
52" x 22" x 20"

(below) Ground Break #6
wood, modaling paste bond, acrylic
45" x 84" x 28"

The powerful resulting pieces incorporate influences of widely diverse cultures that exude a sort of timeless universality.
In keeping with his constructions, Minoru’s drawings are of single, rounded shapes, consisting of repeated, particulate markings, which coalesce into recognizable forms


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Echiko Ohira
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The daughter of an architect, Echiko Ohira was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan. She received a B.F.A. from Musashino Art University in 1972. After marrying Minoru Ohira she and her husband moved to Mexico to experience the architecture and art. Echiko found in Mexico, abject poverty juxtaposed with extreme wealth. This split suffused her life with a profound sympathy for the less fortunate. It compelled her to save materials usually thrown away and use them in creating her art. She identified with those who wasted nothing, those who compressed what they could into tiny spaces, binding things together to form a home and a life.

Echko Ohira’s assemblages, collages and large-scale constructions transform the objects of everyday life, such as brown paper bags, nails, wire and cardboard into extraordinary statements.

(above) Existence II, rusted staples & glue
5" x 10" x 8"

(left) Red Whirl I, paper, acrylic 7 glue
24" x 24" x 13"

(below) Untitled, paper, glue & acrylic
mixed media, 17" x 13"

The physical beauty and elegance of her pieces is sometimes combined with a deliberate sense of compositional disharmony. In Spine, a broken narrow column of blood red paper, the artist draws one into uncomfortable proximity to pain. Her intimate collages, made of stained bits of paper, glue and pencil marks seem to record an inner landscape, wistful and poetic.
Echiko Ohira’s work combines the Japanese precision of form and attention to detail with a rawness more commonly found in Mexican and American contemporary art.
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 Last Updated On: 1/13/06