Jason Hirata (U.S., born 1986), the 2015 Brink Award recipient, presents a solo exhibition of sculpture and drawing—and an associated publication—exploring dynamics of the corporate state and food industry that shape contemporary life. The Brink is a biennial prize awarded to emerging artists, age 35 and under, working in the Cascadia region: Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia.
Hirata takes inspiration from two provocative works as his starting point: Francisco de Goya's early nineteenth-century print from The Disasters of War series that pictures a famine-stricken group eating a porridge of grass pea (a resilient crop that can cause paralysis when consumed with regularity), and a 1981 speech by Jack Welch, the then newly appointed CEO of General Electric who popularized a business model aimed at maximizing shareholder value. For Hirata, bringing together these references—distanced by over a century—creates a dialogue about the current stratification of society, and individual, human survival amidst growing commercial interests of wealth accumulation. In one gallery are Hirata’s oil pastel drawings recreating Goya’s scene of desperation, and an industrial light fixture that partially illuminates the room, inviting questions about what power structures make visible and what they hide. Another gallery installed with box fans, air filters, and word drawings referred to as “restaurant specials”—Chicken Tikka Masala Pizza and Plumpy’Nut, for example—Hirata makes palpable the forces of our globalized economy and networked society. Plumpy’Nut, a therapeutic food used to combat malnutrition in famine and disaster stricken areas, is manufactured by a French company that strictly defends its patent and restricts the licensing of this life-saving remedy, even though it is unable to meet demand—limiting access to potential beneficiaries.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website