“Art is a demon,” “Making art is always struggling.” Ushio and Noriko Shinohara’s parallel statements speak to the unremitting and beautiful nature of a life devoted to Wrestling the Demon of art. The pair possess an unbridled creativity, both vital and unrelenting, yet distinct in its manifestations. Noriko and Ushio embraced New York City’s art world at a time when artists such as Yayoi Kusama and the Gutai Group were asserting a Japanese voice in the thriving art scene of the United States. In 2013, Zach Heinzerling’s film Cutie and the Boxer explored the intersecting vibrancy and struggle of these two veterans of the New York City art scene. The film won the Documentary Directing Award at Sundance Film Festival in 2013, an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary in 2014, followed by an Emmy for Best Documentary in 2016.
Wrestling the Demon: Noriko and Ushio Shinohara explores decades of printmaking within these two storied careers. While each artist’s materials and styles fluctuated throughout the years, the print medium weaves through each triumph and growing pain. The exhibition approaches these works not as solitary art objects, but as a continuous evolution over several decades. Though these two prolific careers knot and intersect, neither loses its fierce independence. Their son, Alex Kukai, carries this artistic legacy into the next generation, drawing inspiration from street art of New York and Tokyo. From Noriko Shinohara’s famed Cutie series to Ushio Shinohara’s notorious boxing paintings, this exhibition considers decades spent wrestling with the demon of art, and quite often, wrestling with themselves.