Sam Falls

Tomio Koyama Gallery is pleased to present Sam Falls’ first solo exhibition in Japan.

Falls takes a highly distinctive approach in his production process, embracing the variable conditions of working en plein air that include engaging with the natural environment, changes in light, the passage of time, and chance outcomes. Site-specific objects such as flowers, leaves and branches are placed together with the powder of a special cold water-reactive pigment upon long swathes of blank canvas laid out on the ground, which are then removed after being left overnight or longer. The pigments are catalyzed by the atmospheric conditions, from rain and snow to fog and morning dew. The overlapping white impressions conceived in this manner constitute the image, filling the canvas with organic contours of nature, and in themselves serving as metaphorical microcosms of the cycle of life and death. Each canvas undergoes multiple compositions of local plants and exposures to the seasonal elements, giving each work a depth of field and durational experience of the environment that it carries with it as a primary source.

Falls has attracted significant attention in Japan for his production of the large ceramic panel works installed on the carriage porch wall of Toranomon Hills Residential Tower in 2022, as well as for his participation in the group exhibition “WORLD CLASSROOM: Contemporary Art through School Subjects” at Mori Art Museum in 2023.

This exhibition presents a new body of work incorporating painting, ceramics, and photography.

【About Sam Falls: From Physics, Linguistics, and Philosophy to Art and Collaborating with Fashion】

Sam Falls (born in 1984) was raised in Vermont and lives and works New York City and New York’s Hudson Valley. He studied physics, linguistics, and philosophy at Reed College, receiving his BA in 2007 and his MFA from ICP-Bard in 2010.

Recent solo museum exhibitions by Sam Falls include “We Are Dust and Shadow” MoCa, Cleveland, Ohio (2023); “Nature Is the New Minimalism,” Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Trento and Rovereto, Italy  (2018); Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA, US (2018); The Kitchen, New York (2015); and Ballroom Marfa, Texas (2015); as well as his participation in the 21st Biennale of Sydney.

Last year he presented an exhibition at Dries Van Noten’s Los Angeles-based gallery space, The Little House. Also being invited to work in collaboration with Louis Vuitton on the Artycapucines Collection in 2019, he continues to engage in a multifaceted practice across a diverse range of fields. 

【About the Exhibition and Works Featured: Collaboration Between Art and Nature, Inviting Viewers to Experience the Presence and Fragility of Life】

Falls’ work encompasses painting, photography, ceramics, land art, and video installations, and is characterized by its fusion of disciplines and the coexistence of different elements.

In his paintings, the images that appear when the objects are removed, also bear ties to techniques such as batik dying and methods of exposure employed in primitive photography such as the photogram.

In producing his ceramic framed photographs, Falls first takes a polaroid of flowers in bloom and weeks later returns to these exact plants to trim the dead flowers. The botanical cuttings are rolled into slabs of wet clay, pressed, and then fired, causing the organic material to turn to ash while their imprinted forms became fossilized. The Fujifilm instant photograps are presented in their respective ceramic frames, exhibiting a representation of the flower’s zenith now passed, entombed by their actual size ceramic figures Coupling obsolete media of large-scale Fujifilm instant films with flora frozen in time, Falls underscores the ephemerality of his subjects and, in a larger sense, the precarity of earth’s resources faced with humanity’s ceaseless drive to consume them.

Falls also considers a work of art to serve as an intimate link between the artist, nature, and the viewer.

The canvases, upon which plants and pigment are arranged through Falls’ own hands, are illuminated by the light of the moon at night, exposed to dew, precipitation, and wind, and once again bask and dry in the light of the sun after the arrival of a new dawn. While the composition is guided by the artist, the color and aesthetic is determined by the hand of the atmospheric conditions. The various colors reflect seasonal transitions from the gentle snow in early spring, to the signs of spring turning to summer, and the intensity of the summer sun, thus also embodying the very passage of time. On close inspection, it is also possible to at times observe the trail of an insect or passage of an animal. Such works could indeed be regarded as fruits of a collaboration between art and nature, and the changes they convey are manifestations of life itself. 

Mami Kataoka, Director of the Mori Art Museum, states as follows regarding Falls’ work in correspondence to his participation in the Toranomon Hills Residential Tower Public Art Project.

“I think it is wonderful that in Sam’s method, the painting is not created by human power, but by natural conditions such as wind, light, and rain. How can people who live in the middle of the city experience the seasons and gain a feel for nature? I thought that in a life where we are surrounded by hard things like glass, metal and concrete, there is a need for artworks like this, where we can feel the warmth of human hands as well as the scenes of nature.”

(“Living with Art: How Mori Art Museum has Worked with Six Different Artists to Create Public Art at Toranomon Hills Residential Tower,” HILLS LIFE, 2022)

Since his student days, Falls has continued to be inspired by the haiku of Japanese poet Matsuo Basho, which has also presented a great influence on his work. The title of the work “Drape the Dust of this World in Droplets of Dew” is taken from one of Basho’s haiku, while “Spring Snow” is in reference to an eponymous novel by Yukio Mishima.

“Petrichor,” whose title refers to the earthy scent produced when rain falls on dry soil, is a large painting which will extend across the entire gallery space in Roppongi to serve as a remarkable centerpiece of this exhibition.

Overwhelmed by the life-size contours of the various flora that overlap multifariously throughout the works, viewers will likely find themselves sensing the presence of a forest and engaging in an interaction with nature.

Yet above all, it is Sam Falls’ sincere enjoyment of and compassion for nature and the fragility of life that makes his work so deeply impressionable to many.
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For press inquiries, please contact: press@tomiokoyamagallery.com (Makiko Okado)
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  • Installation view from “Sam Falls” at Tomio Koyama Gallery Roppongi, Tokyo, 2024 ©Sam Falls, photo by Kenji Takahashi
  • Installation view from “Sam Falls” at Tomio Koyama Gallery Roppongi, Tokyo, 2024 ©Sam Falls, photo by Kenji Takahashi
  • Installation view from “Sam Falls” at Tomio Koyama Gallery Roppongi, Tokyo, 2024 ©Sam Falls, photo by Kenji Takahashi
  • Installation view from “Sam Falls” at Tomio Koyama Gallery Roppongi, Tokyo, 2024 ©Sam Falls, photo by Kenji Takahashi
  • Installation view from “Sam Falls” at Tomio Koyama Gallery Roppongi, Tokyo, 2024 ©Sam Falls, photo by Kenji Takahashi
  • Installation view from “Sam Falls” at Tomio Koyama Gallery Roppongi, Tokyo, 2024 ©Sam Falls, photo by Kenji Takahashi
  • Sam Falls サム・フォールズ Spring Snow 2023 223.9 x 162.9 cm Pigment on canvas ©Sam Falls
  • Sam Falls サム・フォールズ Hit the ground running 2023 114.7 x 107.0 cm Pigment on canvas ©Sam Falls
  • Sam Falls サム・フォールズ Harvest Moon 2023 94.5 x 218.6 cm Pigment on canvas ©Sam Falls
  • Sam Falls サム・フォールズ Im on fire 2023 135.2 x 198.3 cm Pigment on canvas ©Sam Falls
  • Sam Falls サム・フォールズ Petrichor 2023 Pigment on canvas 83.8 x 289.6 cm
    Sam Falls サム・フォールズ Petrichor 2023 Pigment on canvas 83.8 x 289.6 cm ©Sam Falls
  • Sam Falls サム・フォールズ Spring, Summer, Fall (detail) 2023 Pigment on canvas 213.4 x 162.6 cm ©Sam Falls
  • Sam Falls サム・フォールズ Midnight Rainbow (detail) 2023 Pigment on canvas 162.6 x 223.5 cm ©Sam Falls
  • Sam Falls サム・フォールズ Live Forever 2023 φ90.0 cm/h.90.0 x w.90.0 x d.11.6 cm Glazed ceramic and glass, brass frame ©Sam Falls
  • Sam Falls サム・フォールズ Drape the dust of this world in droplets of dew 2023 Fujifilm FP-100C45 instant film, glazed ceramic and glass 39.1 x 29.8 x 6 cm ©Sam Falls
    Sam Falls サム・フォールズ Drape the dust of this world in droplets of dew 2023 Fujifilm FP-100C45 instant film, glazed ceramic and glass 39.1 x 29.8 x 6 cm ©Sam Falls
  • Sam Falls サム・フォールズ Friend of the Moon 2023 h.38.7 x w.25.9 x d.5.3 cm Fujifilm FP-100C45 instant film, glazed ceramic and glass ©Sam Falls
  • Sam Falls サム・フォールズ Night Music 2023 Glazed ceramic and glass, brass frame φ88.9 cm ©Sam Falls