Perpetual Innovation: Kasumi’s Retrospective at Summit Artspace

Kasumi, On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies, still from looping video, 2024.

Put something on repeat and loop it, and it takes on a shape of its own, becoming another entire entity in and of itself. It’s pattern’s older, louder cousin: one who also may travel under the name Persistence of Vision—the title of Kasumi’s first retrospective on view at Summit Artspace, July 12 through September 14.

“Life is born of random infinite permutations and stimuli,” says Kasumi. “If we were consciously aware of everything we encountered our brains would explode. Instead, we construct a reality of patterns that bursts through the chaos in which we try—in our effort to find assurance and comfort—to arrange it into some kind of order.”

Kasumi, Mr. Reynolds, still from looping video, 2017.

Kasumi creates narrative across a splendid universe of work: screenprints, lenticular prints, collage, and painting. Films that she refers to as cinematic assemblages. Video art installations for the Cleveland Cavaliers at Rocket Mortgage Field House, at Lincoln Center with the New York Philharmonic, as part of performances with Grandmaster Flash and DJ Spooky. Public art at Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the DC Tower in Vienna. An interactive art-making app. Music videos. Wearables. GIFS galore. She is also a musician who has performed at Carnegie Hall, recorded four albums, and played on a soundtrack nominated for a Japanese Academy Award. Her accolades include the Cleveland Arts Prize Mid-Career, Guggenheim and MacDowell fellowships, a Knight Foundation grant, and others.

Persistence of Vision presents the breadth and depth of her work for the first time, an experience that surprised and delighted Kasumi. She credits Natalie Grieshammer Patrick, director of artist resources at Summit Artspace, with helping her focus and find a thread between the pieces to build a narrative of her creative life and how one period informs another.

Kasumi, Scatenato, silk screen print, archival digital print, found materials en collage and glitched, archival digital print, 96 X 34.5 inches, 2024.

“What I found is that if you can look at a body of work in an overarching way, the idea of a gesture or motif—like you find in music or dance—appears as seed material that reverberates throughout,” says Kasumi. “This experimentation of single source material in different outputs creates different works.”

Her History of Time, painted in 1999, arises from the concept of a dimensional, folded Japanese screen (byōbu), which, when looked at from an angle, becomes a series of parallelograms. Parallelograms then echo in the zigzag patterns of later works like On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies, a looping video created in 2018, and in collages like Scatenato, made in 2024, a massive digital print that re-mixes and glitches her earlier silk screen prints, collages, archival digital prints and found materials.

Kasumi’s work—no matter what the media—centers around taking one element or gesture and breaking it down to its most elemental, pared-down form. She then takes that singular gesture, now existing as its very essence, and multiplies and arrays it infinitely. In so doing, she creates new meaning. In Surfacing, Kasumi uses the image of one woman, multiplies it thousands of times, and arrays it to appear from a distance as a singular structure of water. The work now moves among symbolic and political implications of women and water.

Extensive use of collage also reflects Kasumi’s manner of interpolating the essential bits to create new narratives. Finding source material and choosing its assembly is yet another instance of decision-making that creates pattern to make sense. Eccentric Fixation (2021) splatters fractured slices of color, text, and images pulled from fragments of her own earlier printed works and found materials. Its frozen motion radiates out from the figure of an ukiyo-e courtesan; this call-and-response of violent reds and hot yellows is barely contained as they travel beyond the image, pressed down by the weight of a blank white mat.

Kasumi, Advise and Consent, lenticular sculpture.

Choosing random, anonymized images from pop culture sources permeate Kasumi’s retrospective. “Her distortion of pop culture imagery allows us to question the dominant culture,” says Patrick. “A lot of her source materials are older, pulled from the 1950s or 60s. People might not know the exact reference but recognize the time period and relate to it. On the surface level, it draws people in to engage them. Its deeper level is how pop culture and film shape our understanding of the world around us.”

Patrick notes that Kasumi’s experimentation with pop culture images and her vision result in a playfulness that transcends different media. Her exquisite mashups are equally inspirational and at home in different cultural spaces.

“Persistence of vision” is the optical illusion that happens when the eye continues to perceive an image for longer than it actually appears, and is what enables motion picture film and television to be watched by us. It’s an apt show title, referring to some of the media Kasumi works in, as well as her insistence and persistence about her artistic vision throughout her life.

“I’m surprised, looking at all my work to date, how I’ve been able to explore and develop; to find new tools and create divergent styles from the same themes and motifs,” says Kasumi. “The interconnectedness of cause and effect, the tension between expectation and memory, and how we are constantly reminded of and shaped by the memory of movement and gesture. Our consciousness emerges from the perpetual feedback loop of patterns that arise in our brains. We break down symbols, images, and gestures that encode meaning—the little units by which we tell our stories and create our own identities. And there is a paradox here: we can choose to tell stories that are self-absorbed and fleeting, or self-aware and expansive.”

Persistence of Vision can be seen in the Betty & Howard Taylor Main Gallery at Summit Artspace, 140 East Market Street, Akron, Ohio 44308. Open noon to 7 pm Friday, and 11 am to 5 pm Saturday.

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