Born in Hiroshima, Japan, Zero Higashida graduated from the Nihon University College of Art in 1984 and later the Tokyo University of Music and Fine Art in 1986. He attended the Studio School of New York in 1988, and received the Hiroshima Scholarship shortly thereafter in 1992. His mother having survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Higashida makes a point of addressing the catastrophe as an event that has indelibly altered the course of human history. Higashida’s simple forms, both rough and gestural, suggest the massive and the infinitesimal at the same time. They reflect at once the beauty, elegance, and harmony of balance, and the suspension of the atom and its relation to the universe. Utilizing steel, stainless steel, stones, and pieces of wood indigenous to Hiroshima, his surfaces ache with ragged edges, and suture-like wounds slice the planes. Favoring a state of precarious equilibrium, he tends to balance his forms on beveled edges and sharp points. Although haunted by the spectre of the atomic bomb, Higashida’s art also embodies, according to art critic Gerard Haggerty, the Japanese notion of chiritori: the planet’s power to heal and restore itself; as well as iconographic suggestions of important and influential individuals in the arts.
“There is nothing more important than world Peace. I strongly believe that expressing world. Peace is the only role that art can truly have.”
–“Zero Higashida: The Weight of Memory,” Sculpture, April 2005, p. 51
Given its totemic appearance and presence, Shiki conveys an overall sense of mystery and spirituality. Crafted of found wood and metal indigenous to the Japanese province of Hiroshima, Shiki’s material history is essential to both its form and meaning. The title itself is a Japanese transliteration, and the nature of the phrase is such that “Shiki” can potentially carry four separate meanings: either “ceremony,” “soldier,” “command,” or “the four seasons”—or a composite of all four. Deliberately ambiguous, Higashida’s title embodies the enigma encapsulated within this resolute black obelisk, as well as the plurality and fluidity of the Japanese language. As Edward Albee writes of the artist’s uniquely Japanese sensibility:
“It is not easy to explain what seems so Japanese about his work to anyone who has not experienced Japan. It all has to do with topography, with landscape, with Zen, with the object as philosophical statement—as unique as isolated, mute, and resonating experience. Higashida turns the world topsy-turvy as well; gravity in its physical sense is defied, all balances are askew; the gravity of the work itself, its balances are paramount.”
—Edward Albee, 1991
Kouros Gallery, Ridgefield, CT
Zero Higashida, Kouros Gallery, New York, 1997