BALTIMORE — At first blush, several works in Kei Ito: Shaded Remnants, a multimedia art exhibition on view at the Gallery in the Sky at the World Trade Center (WTC), read as abstract monochromes. But first impressions can be deceiving. The wall texts explain that these compositions are rubbings. Akin to footprints and photographs, they are indexical impressions of something from the real world — in this case, debris of the 9/11 Pentagon attack. This information reveals the artist’s poignant conceit: Shaded Remnants is a memorial. The works are traces of a global tragedy still imprinted in the memories of Americans more than two decades later.
Accompanying the five rubbings in Shaded Remnants — one for each visible side of the top limestone block in the outdoor 9/11 memorial at the foot of the WTC — are “Making of Shaded Remnants (9/11 Pentagon Monument)” (2022), a 30-minute video documenting the process of creating the rubbings, and “Untitled (Rusted Suns)” (2022), a large painting on unstretched canvas that hangs down from the ceiling and spreads out across the gallery floor. Ito made the latter by applying iron-infused paint over a base layer of acrylic, creating a series of sun-like forms that will continue to rust. Taken together, the work and the pre-existing accoutrements of the WTC in Baltimore combine to create a powerful homage to a tragic event.
Shaded Remnants expands Ito’s project of exploring historic tragedies through challenging multimedia installations in site-specific places. In “Afterimage Requiem” (2018), a collaboration with fellow Maryland Institute College of Art graduate Andrew Keiper, Ito arranged a series of photographs across the floor of the Baltimore War Memorial. These “silhouettes of glowing, prostrate bodies” were meant to suggest the carnage wrought by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, an event the artist’s grandfather witnessed.
With Shaded Remnants, Ito reminds us that history continues to be punctuated by horrific events, while allowing a moment in which to mourn such tragedies. Wandering around the pentagonal layout of the World Trade Center in Baltimore, one is offered a space to contemplate the complex meanings of memory, place, and medium that the artist has evoked with Shaded Remnants.
Kei Ito: Shaded Remnants continues at the Gallery in the Sky at the World Trade Center (401 East Pratt Street, 27th Floor, Baltimore, Maryland) through November 20. The exhibition was curated by Kirk Shannon-Butts and organized by The Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts (BOPA).