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"Coral Sea 「珊瑚海」" 2018


lithograph
printed at Itazu Litho-
grafik, Tokyo, Japan
43.5" x 32"
limited edition 10
In the permanent collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

 

– from the series “Coral Sea”

 

“Coral Sea” is an expanding discourse, a double entendre series of anecdotes from an abstract colonial sea zone. The narrative draws references from coincidental events of the Pacific War from the family history of Griffith (American paternal) and Shukuya (Japanese maternal) who fought on opposing sides. Oddly, the battle had not much historical attribution. The battle generated severe losses and only Australia commemorates ‘Coral Sea Day’ to celebrate the thwarted Japanese invasion. Admiral Heiji Shukuya, my grandfather, was co-captain of Operation MO’s light aircraft carrier Shōhō. 

 

During a high level officer interview conducted by the celebrated Commander in Chief, Heihaichiro Togo, in the months leading up to Pearl Harbor, my grandfather was asked the mandatory question, “What are our chances of fighting the U.S.? Will we be victorious?,” to which he bluntly answered, “Not a chance..” The Shoho was a makeshift aircraft carrier built from a refurbished cargo ship with a runway platform mounted on top to hold two dozen Zeros. A decoy mission that was expected to annihilate, disappear and left unaccounted. It could be interpreted as the first suicide mission and the task force was crippled by losing the Shoho and a few cruisers and destroyers. Grandfather Shukuya did survive to tell this story to my mother and my uncles, although I never knew him since he passed away during the tough post war times. As he only knew how to be a naval officer, the war’s end rendered him jobless. He was a budding art collector before the breakout of war and garnered a fine collection of Japanese and Chinese art during his travels. In the occupation of Japan, much of this treasure was confiscated or sold cheap to earn a living. My mother’s recurring story of his passing is that he had a heart failure while admiring one of his treasured Chinese vase

 

Long after a decade and a few years, my mother and father met to learn more of each other’s language. My birth carried new meaning to the Shukuya family and perhaps the Griffiths. The conception of “Coral Sea” is a retrospective in the making of the untold family history and the identity reflected within. Impossible hybrids are represented in these blueprints and diagrams of war machines that are constructed and fused of American and Japanese parts. The architecture and designs are so welded in of opposing mechanics that it cannot possibly function. The sea that the ships and planes vanished do not belong to any country. The ever-changing tide won’t let that happen.