Floating islands

Yutaka Sone Venezia 2013

Yutaka Sone, Venezia, 2013

Though I’d seen Yutaka Sone’s work before and found it fascinating, the work in his show at David Zwirner interested me more not just for the extraordinary accuracy of the marble cityscapes but for the places they represent. I think the only carved marble work by Sone I’d seen in real life before is Highway Junction 105-110 which depict freeway intersections in Los Angeles, a city I’ve never visited and only really know from films. The works felt a bit like architectural models, albeit it unexpectedly made of white marble. Here the cities are Venice, New York and Hong Kong. Admittedly I’ve only been to Hong Kong once, very briefly and a long time ago but the other two are cities I know well.

Sone has mapped the territory in incredible detail using methods as diverse as aerial surveillance and Google earth to gain as exact an understanding of the cityscape as possible before it is carved by hand into the marble.

Yutaka Sone Venezia 2013 detail

Venezia (detail), 2013

The detail of Venezia is fascinating, especially visiting the gallery with students, some of whom joined me on a trip to Venice in November; we found ourselves able to pick out the detail of what’s where – I could also identify the hotel I stayed in last summer – and enjoy seeing how the city hangs together. And then there’s the odd blobby nature of the base.

When Kevin McCloud visited Venice as part of his Grand Tour he explained the method of construction of the city with the aid of some cocktail sticks and a bowl of blancmange. If I’d seen the programme before visiting Venice for the first time, I might never have travelled. The spongey-looking base of Sone’s Venezia brings this description immediately back to mind.

Yutaka Sone Manhattan

Little Manhattan, 2007-9

On an altogether sturdier looking base, Little Manhattan is fascinating for similar reasons. Another familiar city – albeit one I haven’t visited for a couple of years – laid out so that I can navigate familiar areas. The expanse of Central Park is striking, as it tends to be when one looks at a map of Manhattan, as is the grid and the way it starts to dissolve into a more chaotic arrangement of streets in lower Manhattan. And of course, unlike a map, here it’s possible to see where the tall buildings sit in relation to one another. Later in the day I realise my focus was on the, more familiar, southern part of the island and I really want to know how the Cloisters – the odd outpost of the Metropolitan Museum in Fort Tryon Park at the north of Manhattan which is a gathering of architectural structures from medieval Europe and which I haven’t visited in decades – looks in marble.

Yutaka Sone installation view David Zwirner

Hong Kong Island (Chinese), 1998

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