Motoi Yamamoto's Saltworks

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Japanese artist Motoi Yamamoto has created elaborate installations emulating ruins, corridors and labyrinths, all made entirely of white salt, in museums and galleries around the world but his first show in Los Angeles is now at the Laband Art Gallery at Loyola Marymount University.


The artist, born in Hiroshima, graduated with a B.A. from Kanazawa College of Art in 1995. The following year, his 24-year-old sister died of brain cancer. This trauma led the artist to meditate on the transience of life and to begin working with a new medium: salt.

In Japan, salt is used for ritual purification at funerals but also before sumo wrestling matches, even in restaurants and bars, where it is used to ward off evil spirits.


Yamamoto places the salt in a plastic dispenser with a long narrow nozzle, which he remembered from his parents' motorcycle shop where it was used for oil, and draws thin white lines in a precise and meticulous fashion. Using 400 pounds of salt, Yamamoto's drawing of the swirling white foam generated by turbulent water covers the entire floor of the Laband Art Gallery and is titled "Floating Garden."


The walls bear a selection of his graphite drawings of the spiraling shapes on ivory gesso panels and photographs of the drawings printed as negatives so the white lines emulate the salt patterns. There is also a large scroll hanging in the atrium of LMU's William H. Hannon Library.


When the show closes on December 8, the public is invited to come to the gallery and help take the salt back to the ocean at nearby Playa del Rey. In fact, the project is called "Return to the Sea," further emphasizing the impermanence of the work and of life itself.


Organized by Mark Sloan, director and senior curator of the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, College of Charleston School of the Arts, the artist is completing work on his installation and can be seen working from 10am to 4pm on August 31, September 4 to 6. The show opens on September 8.

In addition, there will be a performance by Hirokazu Kosaka and a Noh play held in conjunction with the exhibition. For information, go to or call 310-338-2880.