Yuji Agematsu Studio Visit
Dec 12, 2014

artist talking to students in his studio

Agematsu discusses his art with YI Leaders in his studio, December 2014. Photograph by Filip Wolak

On December 12, YI Leaders visited artist Yuji Agematsu’s studio in Brooklyn. He has been commissioned to do the inaugural installation in the Museum’s theater in Spring 2015. Central to Agematsu's artwork over the last thirty years is an almost daily practice of taking walks around the city and picking up what he finds. There are certain neighborhoods he keeps returning to, like the neighborhood surrounding the new Whitney Museum. On this Friday evening we gathered just outside of the York Street subway station, navigated the cold cobblestone streets of Dumbo, and made our way up a narrow wooden staircase to his studio.

 

artist in his studio

Agematsu in his studio surrounded by his boxes filled to the brim with objects found on the streets, December 2014. Photograph by Filip Wolak

Agematsu saves everything he finds on his daily walks. At first, his studio space seemed overwhelming— objects upon objects lay spread out on a table in the center of the room and boxes upon boxes lined the walls. We had spent previous YI sessions discussing Agematsu’s use of discarded objects found on city streets, but we were all in awe of the number of objects he had collected over the years and how he had organized and catalogued them.

box of chewed gum in plastic sleeves

Agematsu’s collection of chewed gum which he found on the street, December 2014. Photograph by Filip Wolak

After inviting us to observe the materials he had arranged on the table and shelves of his studio, Agematsu showed us his favorite object collections. We passed around trays of perfectly preserved, used chewing gum, and we noted that they almost resembled a scientific display of gems or minerals. 

student with magnifying glass looking at a book

Agematsu’s journal with his incredibly detailed notes in tiny print, December 2014. Photograph by Filip Wolak

We also discussed Yuji’s artistic process of taking daily walks to collect more materials from the street and his meticulous records of where he went and what he found. We had to use magnifying glasses to read his journals, which he had written in beautiful tiny print. It was amazing to see the methods Agematsu used to catalogue his materials, and the opportunity to witness this up-close view of his process gave us special insight into his work. 

By Sammie Jo, YI Leader