By Leah Ollman, March 31, 2011 | Los Angeles Times
To anyone familiar with Mineko Grimmer’s work, her two new installations at Koplin Del Rio will come as no surprise. The L.A.-based artist hasn’t had a solo show locally since 1999, but the general form and premise of her work have remained consistent since the 1980s. In Grimmer’s case, more of the same is a good thing. A very good thing.
Grimmer sculpts sound and silence, using the tools of time and gravity. Her works are built, elegantly, of redwood, bamboo, stone, wire, brass and water, but they are performances as much as they are objects. Grimmer makes instruments that play themselves, compositions that unfold over the course of the day. The work is reductive and yet utterly full, unfixed but complete.
For each piece, Grimmer creates a mold that she fills with small pebbles and water, then freezes. That frozen mass (usually, as here, an inverted pyramid) is suspended over some type of structure that receives the melting ice and falling stones, transforming each drop into an acoustic event. In “Dialogue—Bamboo” and “Dialogue—Wires,” the masses are hung at eye level over two shallow pools framed in redwood, each about 5 feet square. Standing within one pool is a platform supporting eight shelves of bamboo poles, the layers aligned to create an open, three-dimensional grid. As the pebbles loosen from the mass, they fall onto and through the bamboo, generating a spontaneous percussive riff, a brief, syncopated rhythm. Sometimes the cascading patter is punctuated by a clear ringing tone, as stones strike crisscrossing solid brass rods beneath the bamboo.
Guitar strings stretch across the platform standing in the other pool, 16 of them arranged in two loosely interwoven pyramids. Hollow brass rods pass through a post in the pool’s center. When pebbles drop onto the strings, either directly or glancingly, notes resound, one at a time or in short runs. Often the stones will miss the strings and ping against the brass rods, or fall straight into the water with a gentle splash. The frozen pyramidal masses are replaced when they have fully disintegrated, and the action/inaction continues.
Separately and together, the “Dialogue” pieces make music, an ever-evolving minimalist composition forged from opposites: natural elements (wood, water, stone, metal) and an imposed grid; stillness and motion; silence and sound. The effect is transfixing, at once calming and inciting heightened awareness. Grimmer was born in Japan and schooled there and in the U.S. (receiving both a B.F.A. and M.F.A. from Otis). The purity, simplicity and meditative state associated with Zen Buddhism inevitably come to mind, but process art and performative gestures are equally relevant to the context of Grimmer’s development as an artist. The melting of ice was primary to an Allan Kaprow happening of 1967. The significance of chance and the fullness of silence in Grimmer’s work connect her profoundly to the (Zen-influenced) aesthetic of John Cage, with whom she once collaborated.
Grimmer’s sound sculptures owe much, as well, to the concept famously articulated by Heraclitus: No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man. If it seems her work hasn’t changed over three decades, reconsider. No two pieces are the same because not even a single piece remains the same. Change drives the work as well as our perception of it. No hour spent with the “Dialogue” pieces will be like any other, but all will be nourishing, expansive, restorative and invigorating.
-- Leah Ollman
Koplin Del Rio, 6031 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (310) 836-9055, through April 9. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.koplindelrio.com