Ritsuko Ozeki

The house on the wall, the house in your heart

Ritsuko Ozeki's Froelick Gallery show was part of the artist's reconciliation with Japan's 2011 tsunami


Ritsuko Ozeki’s recent show “Distance” at the Froelick Gallery was full of prints, specifically aquatints, and selected paintings. Some of these were small, and some were very large assemblages of smaller prints. They depicted ordinary things—houses, staircases, trees, dolls, a dress, but each specific piece had an unusual transformative power that appeared to plumb the deeper channels of the human condition.

As I circled the thematically grouped artworks, I felt loss, dread and revitalization. Ozeki’s simplified color palette and spare imagery seemed abstract, a radical reduction of means, and that made them seem allegorical somehow and by that route managed to connect directly with my own memories and stories.

Ritsuko Ozeki, "A Doll", Print etching, aquatint    20 x 20 in./Courtesy Froelick Gallery

Ritsuko Ozeki, “A Doll”, Print etching, aquatint
20 x 20 in./Courtesy Froelick Gallery

The story that generated “Distance” in Ozeki is a widely shared one, at least in her native Japan—the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on March 11, 2011, and led directly to the drama around the Fukashima nuclear power plant disaster. Ozeki says that she found herself confronted and overtaken by emptiness, a void felt by many Japanese and even around the world.

After a time when she couldn’t create new work, Ozeki found herself identifying with natural objects and simple forms, first in a show called “Scene” and then in “Distance.” She emailed this account from Japan.

“After the great tragedy attacked Japan in 2011, I had a hard time getting back to create an artwork. The show “Scene” was the first show after the tragedy. I used black empty frame images and also used stairs, hallway, and forest as motif to create “the story” that fill into the empty frames. They were all created for mourning/memorial meaning. Four years past, then I was able to objectively observe what’s happened to the area where the earthquake attacked. The “Distance” means not only expressing the length as distance, but also using emotional separation as distance too.”

Although deeply affected by the events, Ozeki was able to construct a “scene” and framework for a show that captured a deep and raw space.