When I decided to interview Ichiro Irie, it was originally because of his excellent curation of exhibitions in his artist-run space: JAUS. Subsequently, I discovered way more than a gallerist and an artist. A brief overview: Ichiro Irie is an artist, he runs an artist-run space, he is a curator for his space and many others in the U.S.A, Europe, Asia and Latin America, he is a writer, he is a teacher, and as a passionate hobby, he is a musician, songwriter, and singer. On top of this all, he is a husband and a father. You don’t see my issue here? Let me tell you. That diversity of activities is far from our French traditional education and culture that says basically “You can’t do everything well. You have to make a choice in your life if you want to do it well.”
Luckily, I caught the energetic vibes of the American culture as well, so I know from experience that if you are creative in many fields, each field nurtures the other and vice versa. So, if I disregard my French traditions and biases, I’m sure I can write Ichiro Irie’s personal story.
The story begins in Tokyo, 1969, where he was born, and continues at the age of two in Los Angeles, where both his mother and father decided to immigrate for their professions (Cancer Research and Physician).
Several years later, Ichiro received his B.A. from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and his M.F.A. from Claremont Graduate University. Ichiro was already wearing multiple hats by starting curatorial projects (1999) even if he “was strongly urged by professors to stick to painting”
FIVE YEARS IN MEXICO CITY
In 2001, Irie went to Mexico City on a Fulbright fellowship. He says “from 2001 to August 2006 a lot of good things happened”. This is where he met many of his successful friends and colleagues who also wear multiple hats. To name a few: Miguel Calderon (Interdisciplinary Artist, Filmmaker, Musician, D.J.), Yoshua Okon (Interdisciplinary Artist, and Founder and President of SOMA, and founder and director of the legendary La Panaderia), Artemio (Interdisciplinary Artist, Filmmaker, curator, D.J.)
This is also where he founded an art magazine “I started this artists-run magazine ‘RIM’ which was only about 30 pages long for the first couple issues. Then PAC (Patronato de Arte Contemporaneo) a big organization in Mexico City, gave me some money to help me out with the magazine to produce more issues. After that, other important organizations like Coleccion Jumex, CONACULTA and Cultural Contact also provided funding. We did 17 issues.”
Then, “In 2005, I knew I wanted to come back to L.A in 2006. My wife, who now goes by Aska Irie, is also an artist, and we met in Mexico City. As she was completing her studies at La Esmeralda (The National School of Painting, Sculpture, and Printmaking), we were considering our options, and thought it would easier in terms of work and family to live in L.A.”
RE-START IN LOS ANGELES
Once in L.A he became for a short period Director at Steve Turner Contemporary. He preferred to return to making art and became an artist in residence at 18th Street Arts Center in Santa Monica, CA (he still is).
He also had a strong desire to teach so he began teaching at Oxnard College and Santa Monica College. He still teaches at Oxnard College, and also at Ryman Arts hosted at Otis
JAUS opened as an artist-run space on September 11, 2009 on 11851 La Grange in Los Angeles.
The building is the ideal contemporary white cube every artist dreams of as a studio, or any curator dreams of for an exhibition. The minimalist design made of an undivided wide and bright room allows for an ample range of exhibitions. From baroque to minimal, whether it is installations or paintings, every kind of art can be shown at its best in such a building.
The name JAUS comes from the project space associated with the magazine he ran in Mexico whose name was originally RIMJAUS (the house of rim). As he was using the first part of the name “RIM” in order to connect with the magazine, he decided to use only the second part of it “JAUS” for the exhibition project in Los Angeles.
JAUS seems more like a statement for Ichiro than just an exhibition space. Because of the phonetic Spanish pronunciation “house”, and because of the graphics of its logo, JAUS recalls the famous “Bauhaus”. This German art school, active from 1919 to 1933 and founded by Architect Walter Gropius, was the most innovative place where the new modernism found its origins. The mission of the Bauhaus was to cultivate the porosity of ideas in Architecture, Design, Visual Arts, Photography, Dance and Music that feed each other.
Seen under this light, we understand better why the name of “JAUS” would become much more than a name for Ichiro Irie. This would initially determine a way of thinking, his approach to art, with no boundaries and no mutual exclusivity.
During five years from 2010 to 2015, Ichiro ran JAUS as an art laboratory where young and more established artists and curators were given their chance to experiment.
Ichiro: “We wanted to have a melting pot of ideas with artists at different stages of their careers”
(..) I invited Marcela Quiroz, a curator from Mexico to curate an exhibition featuring artist from Tijuana. Two French curators, Etienne Bernard, and Celine Kopp co-organized a show of Parisian artists: Etienne Bernard and Celine Kopp. Etienne Bernard is currently director of Passerelle Centre d’art Contemporain & Celine Kopp is currently director of Triangle France in Marseille.
(..) In 2012, KJ Baysa invited Marcos Lutyens to participate in the ‘Global Climateric‘ exhibition with the piece ‘Smog Stacking’. Lutyens also happens to be an artist who participated in the most recent Documenta with a work entitled ‘Hypnotic Show’ ”.
About the piece “Smog Stacking” Lutyens says: “This process-driven work was triggered by a fascination with the scene in the movie ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’ starring David Bowie, in which Bowie is fixated on an array of 12 TV screens that are transmitting all manner of human-related exploits. As he watches, his reaction changes gradually from pleasure and enjoyment to a troubled and tortured demeanor.”
When I asked about his criteria for his exhibition program Ichiro Irie says “Initially we made a mission statement whose goal was to bring together as many different aspects of what art making could possibly be without limiting itself to genre or media. I wanted JAUS to be dynamic and not limited to any kind of aesthetic or theoretical parameters.”
During those five years we had many group shows lead by wonderful curators: KJ Baysa (who is now director of the Honolulu Biennial and a very prolific promoter of the arts), Martin Durazo, Kio Griffith, Bryan Ricci, Ronald Lopez, Clayton Campbell, Carrie Patterson, Jennifer Johung, Devon Tsuno, Aleve Mei Loh, Eve Wood and Carl Berg who is currently the Director of Edward Cella Gallery on Wilshire. He curated the exhibition ‘Searching for Turrell’. A show inspired by a visit to The Hague dunes by several L.A. artists.”
Perhaps JAUS was meant to allow Ichiro to have more time to work on his art, but, in fact, he ended up getting plenty of extra work as a curator. Ichiro recollects on how he began curating exhibitions “At first, nobody invites you to shows, so the primary motivation of organizing shows was to show my work and that of my friends. (..) and becoming a curator occurred naturally as I always had this nature of putting things together, organizing things.”
And genuinely and humbly he adds: (…) The label of Curator makes me a little bit embarrassed because I feel like curators do an incredible amount of research on philosophy, art history, and they do constant studio visits, and I do some of that too, but probably not to the level that would be expected of a professional curator. My curatorial style is much more organic. I’m surrounded by artists all the time. They recommend me to other artists and curators. I don’t think my curatorial practice necessarily has that sort of rigor that would be required of somebody who calls himself a professional curator. I curate for pleasure.”
ANOTHER 5 YEARS WITH JAUS?
Ichiro Irie did so well the first five years that it might be a bit challenging to take new directions, and to continue to raise the bar?
Ichiro: “The average life expectancy of an artist-run space is about five years, and then they move on to something else. When I started JAUS, I told to myself I will run the space for at least five years with group shows. We did that, and at the end of last year, I was thinking about how I wanted the space to evolve. I knew I wanted to do something. I decided to do more one or two people shows instead of group shows.”
Not to mention of course he has already been asked to curate shows this year 2015 and next in Turku, Finland, in Frankfurt, Germany, in Bushwick, NY etc……
ALL PIECES TOGETHER
Remember his name “Ichiro Irie” he will be taking on increasingly ambitious and visible projects in the future. And why not, not now but in a few years you will see his name as the curator nominated for the Venice Biennial or Documenta or……. I know he would prefer me not say this, but I’m sure it will happen.
Not to mention the fact that his journey as an artist is continuously growing, because we must not forget he is first and foremost, an artist. But I won’t tell you about that side of him. My French/tradition has finally overruled my first intentions, and I shall only tell you the story of Ichiro Irie, the curator. I would need another 1500 words to write the portrait of Ichiro Irie, the Artist.
And another to write about his alternative rock group Orphanette whose song Baltic Sea was recently featured on the Walking Dead video game soundtrack.
Ichiro Irie is not just a multifaceted profile, he is an incredible learner and worker. We could compare what he is building with a puzzle. Some pieces are blurred, some are very clear and all together the pieces assembled make sense. Yes, he is that kind of gifted person.
Beatrice Chassepot, Los Angeles, April 18th, 2015
(Interview conducted March 17th, 2015)