scratching, blood or cat carving

installation view from scratching, blood or cat carving at Tomio Koyama Gallery, 2007 ©Tam Ochiai


Tam Ochiai works in various media including drawing, painting, sculpture, video, and performances that invite audience-participation. In an early series entitled “Shopping Bags,” which has been shown in New York and at the Art Tower Mito in Japan, Ochiai painted small abstract expressionist paintings resembling signatures on shopping bags. Throughout his oeuvre, Ochiai’s works have explored the slippages of everyday life to draw subtle connections between the light and the heavy, and the serious and the humorous.
His drawings, which resemble an archive of scattered thoughts, at times function as parts, or like tiny germinating buds encapsulating an exhibition theme, and at others constitute an entire exhibition by themselves. Ochiai pulls snippets of inspiration from everyday non-events such as misspelled words, questionable mathematical formulas, quotations from films or novels, used in pieces or in repetition, or the curious harmony between a girl’s hairstyle and a striped shirt. Given these fragments, the viewer is naturally tempted to try and imagine the whole.


This exhibition is constituted by two series of works, “Cat Carving” and “Cat Curving”. “Cat Carving” features both sculptures by and of cats. While Ochiai fabricated the sculptures of cats, other pieces were completed through actions such as scratching, sculpting, sliding, and napping, performed by actual cats. “Cat Curving,” on the other hand, is a series that highlights both the graceful lines of a cat’s body and the curved lines seen in art nouveau designs, which sometimes look as if they were drawn by cat’s paws.

Artist Profile

Tam Ochiai

Tam Ochiai was born in Yokohama, Kanagawa in 1967. He moved to the United States in 1990 after graduating from Wako University, and completed his M.A in New York University in 1993. He currently lives and works in New York.

His major exhibitions include, “Criterium 16: Tam Ochiai ‘Shopping bags’” (Contemporary Art Gallery, Art Tower Mito, Ibaraki, Japan, 1995); “MOT Annual: Fiction? Painting in the Age of the Virtual” (Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, Japan, 2002), “Flashback” (Kunstverein Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany, 2005); “The Door into Summer –The Age of Micropop” (Contemporary Art Gallery, Art Tower Mito, Ibaraki, Japan, 2006); “Winter Garden: The Exploration of the Micropop Imagination in Contemporary Japanese Art” (Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo [touring Japanisches Kulturinstitut, Cologne, 2009, and numerous other venues]; “spies are only revealed when they get caught” (WATARIUM Museum, Tokyo, Japan, 2010); and “Yokohama Triennale 2011: Our Magic Hour” (Yokohama Museum of Art, NYK Waterfront Warehouse [BankART Studio NYK], Kanagawa, Japan). For the 2016 exhibition re wild(e) (ARATANIURANO, Tokyo), Ochiai engaged in new attempts such as his work with film director Hiroyuki Oki in which the two collaborate in the production of drawings, video, and onsite three-dimensional works. The “Ashtray Sculptures” presented at this exhibition were also featured in his 2017 solo show Tarragon, Like a Cat’s Belly at Team Gallery in New York, attracting much attention.

Ochiai’s works are housed in the collections of The National Museum of Art, Osaka, The Japan Foundation, Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, Deutsche Bank, and the Takahashi Collection.