LOS ANGELES — If there’s any show that can coax you back into seeing art in-person, let it be this one: Busy Work at Home at Nonaka-Hill. The gallery is staged like a home, but not the one we’ve come to know (and hate) through quarantine; instead, this is home the way children might see it — a menagerie of endlessly interesting objects, each one alive with the capacity for play and a beauty worth contemplating.
The star of the show is the gallery’s extensive collection of tatebanko prints. Produced in Japan during the Edo Period (1603–1868) through the Meiji Restoration (1868–1912), these prints function a little like paper doll booklets — printed on each page are elements of a complete scene, to be cut out and assembled into a miniature diorama. Uncut, though, the images are sublimely enigmatic, begging to be turned around in every direction, each one a masterpiece of composition and color blocking.
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Happily toeing the line between a beautifully constructed game and a work of art, these rare prints serve as the inspiration for the rest of the show. All of the works take playing very seriously, ranging from literal games like Italian designer Enzo Mari’s iconic “16 Animali” wood block puzzle, to the whimsical clothing of Isse Miyake and Adelle Lutz, to design objects and even exercise equipment from the interdisciplinary studio BLESS. Together, they create a kind of tableaux for a “home” and make it strange, with unfamiliar details in a familiar setting.
Stuck at home as we have been, Busy Work at Home invites us to rediscover our sense of wonder and notice the overlooked objects around us. Here, home can mean a place that “shelters day-dreaming” (as Gaston Bachelard might put it) and an opportunity for limitless invention and games, with the time to play them all.
Busy Work at Home continues at Nonaka-Hill ( 720 North Highland Ave, Hollywood, Los Angeles) through May 29.