Jaw-Dropping Sculpture Looks Like Vapor Frozen In Time

Yasuaki Onishi’s dazzling installation, “Reverse of Volume RG,” is an exercise in turning traditional sculpture inside out and upside down.

If you could make a cast of a cumulus cloud, then string it up in an art gallery, you’d have something resembling Reverse of Volume RG, a dazzling new installation at Rice Gallery in Houston, by Japanese artist Yasuaki Onishi.


Reverse, as the name suggests, is an exercise in turning sculpture inside out and upside down. Think about a typical sculpture: It rests on the floor and occupies a finite amount of space; it’s a solid object. Reverse, on the other hand, derives its magic something or other from the space it doesn’t occupy; it’s the ghost of a solid object–of cardboard boxes, specifically. Working with an assistant, Onishi draped plastic sheeting over a scaffold of boxes, then dripped strands of hot black glue from the ceiling to seal the plastic in place. When the glue dried, they removed the boxes, leaving the plastic to float in mid-air like vapor. Onishi has a rather poetic term for this process: He calls it, “casting the invisible.”

No idea what it’s like to see this thing in person, but if Rice’s exhibition literature is any indication, it’s pretty spectacular:

At first glance, standing in the center of the gallery’s foyer, it appears to be a suspended, glowing mass whose exact depth is difficult to perceive. Upon entering the gallery and walking along the left or the right side, the installation transforms into an airy opening that can be entered. Almost like stepping into an inner sanctum or cave-like chamber, the semi- translucent plastic sheeting and wispy strands of hot glue envelop the viewer in a fragile, tent-like enclosure speckled with inky black marks. Visitors can walk in and out of the contemplative space, observing how the simplest qualities of light, shape, and line change.

Who wants to buy us a plane ticket to Houston?!

Reverse of volume RG is on display until June 24.

[Images courtesy of Rice Gallery]


About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D