Chicago Shimpo
Artists from Chicago and Obihiro Collaborate
in 3-Week Exhibition in Chicago


• For three weeks in July, artists of a wide range of stripes from Chicago and Obihiro, Japan gathered in Chicago, exchanging ideas and expanding new artistic horizons through numerous exhibits, talks and performances.
• The “Shikou Kairo: Patterns of Thought” exhibition was held from July 8 through 28 at the Hairpin Arts Center in Logan Squire as part of the Chicago/Obihiro Artist Exchange. It is a partnership initiated in 2018 between Chicago-based Asian Improv aRts Midwest (“AIRMW”) and the Tokachi International Cultural Exchange Center based in the city of Obihiro, Hokkaido.

• The multi-media exhibition was focused on the works by Obihiro-based contemporary artists such as Hiroshi Mehata (music and visual art), Daisaku Ueno (bamboo art) and Masanori Umeda (paintings). On the Chicago side, photographer/filmmaker Kioto Aoki, graphic designer Kiyomi Negi and calligrapher Hekiun Oda were among the participating artists.
• A variety of public presentations were held at local venues in addition to the Hairpin Arts Center. Chicago-based musician Tatsu Aoki gave a New Japan Ensemble concert at Elastic Arts and a Miyumi Project concert at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; Joyce Kubose demonstrated the Urasenke tea ceremony at the Hairpin Arts Center; Tokiko Kimura performed koto at the Hairpin Arts Center; Naoki Ushiromura form Obihiro demonstrated soba noodle making at the Japanese American Service Committee; musician Hiroshi Mehata was featured in a concert at the Hairpin Arts Center; and Tsukasa Taiko and Shubukai collaborated during the exhibition.

• The exhibition was incubated by Tsutomu Hanaki, an Obihiro-born computer engineer who has been engaged in bringing works by Obihiro artists to Chicago over the past six years. Hanaki was joined by Tatsu Aoki two years ago, and together the two hatched the idea of the artist exchange project. Illustrator Mika Iwasawa of Obihiro assisted Hanaki in coordinating the project on the Japan side.

• According to Hanaki, when he was traveling around the U.S. seven years ago, he “felt at home” in Chicago. After having started up an importing related company with Umeda, he began returning to Chicago each summer to introduce works by Obihiro artists. A part of his activities has resulted in the annual Obihiro Contemporary Art Exhibit at the Consulate General of Japan in Chicago, which started in 2014.
• The Chicago/Obihiro Artist Exchange has an additional dimension for Hanaki, on top of exhibition events.
• It has produced photograph collections and illustration booklets by Kioto Aoki and Negi, respectively, alongside a CD recording by Mehata and Tatsu Aoki.
• “Our focus this year is to leave a tangible record of what we’ve done,” Hanaki said.

Artists from Obihiro, Hokkaido

• Originally from the city of Matsuzaka, Mie, Mehata is a contemporary musician who has been fascinated by Obihiro and Hokkaido.
• While traveling around Hokkaido in search of the “sound that represents Obihiro,” Mehata has expanded his realm of artistic expression into visual art.
• One of his works on display at the Exhibition is an oversized horseshoe, created after those in use in Obihiro.
• Obihiro Horses are quite large and their hooves are four or five times larger than those of an average thoroughbred racehorse. Such horses run in the famous Obihiro horserace, jangling numerous bells hanging around them. Mehata said his horseshoe is a representation of that image.

• Daisaku Ueno is a pottery maker from Kitahiroshima, near the city of Sapporo, Hokkaido.
• When he exhibited his works at the Ginza Holiday summer festival in Chicago six years ago with the help of Hanaki, he felt they were all too small for him. Then he saw a bamboo blind at a Home Depot, which gave him an idea to make something infinitely bigger.
• He took the blind apart into individual pieces of bamboo, and started to weave them together. The result was a still-expanding, mesh-like creation called “Next,” which looks like a warped time-space with ever-growing wormholes.
• “It feels free to make it the way it grows infinitely,” Ueno explained. “I want to invoke a desire in the viewer to step in it.”
• When completed, this ongoing work will be hung from the ceiling.

• Illustrator Iwasawa is also a creator of coloring pictures for children.
• Working as a coordinator for the exchange project, she arranged Kioto Aoki’s and Negi’s Obihiro visit as part of the project.
• She is particularly happy that something tangible has been produced by the project in the form of photograph collections and illustration booklets, Iwasawa said.

• On her visit to Obihiro, Kioto Aoki took photographs of 11 local people including a soba maker, pony rancher and artist, using a pinhole camera. She hand-made the camera using empty cans and boxes given to her, while she was interviewing them.
• Her photographs on display are mostly out-of-focus, fuzzy impressions of those people’s workplaces and work tools. Like some half-lost memories of the past, they bring to viewers a nostalgic feeling.
• “Pinhole camera is the very beginning of photography, where everything started,” Aoki said.
• These exhibited photos can be seen in the photo book by Aoki.

• Negi is specialized in illustration and graphic design.
• Rather than an artist, she regards herself as a communication designer, she said. Her work is, first and foremost, for her clients, and her goal is to create what meets the needs of their projects. Also a member of Tsukasa Taiko, Negi is the primary designer for the ensemble’s posters and website.
• Her Obihiro experience has been crystalized in the booklet “Obihiro Kiko” (“Obihiro Impression Log”) along with the illustrations of the people she interviewed.


Exhibit venue at the Hairpin Arts Center


From left: Mika Iwaasawa, Kiyomi Negi, Toshihisa Kato, Daisaku Ueno, Hekiun Oda, Hiroshi
Mehata, Kioto Aoki, and Tatsu Aoki


Hiroshi Mehata and his art, a horseshoe from Obihiro Horses


Daisaku Ueno sits in his art and welcomes visitors.


Kioto Aoki poses in front of her arts taken by pinhole cameras.


Kiyomi Negi, communication designer