Rice University Art Gallery has commissioned Japanese artist Yusuke Asai to create a new installation in conjunction with the Menil Collection’s exhibition Experiments with Truth: Gandhi and Images of Nonviolence. Asai paints with different types of mud, dust, soil, and other natural materials he finds locally. In his immersive murals inspired by Indian folk painting, simple geometric shapes form dense forests full of imaginary animals and people appearing in lush patterns crawling across walls and ceilings. For his first exhibition in the United States, Yusuke Asai will transform Houston’s swampy soil found in its bayous and surrounding areas into a stylized, fantastical landscape.
Yusuke Asai became known internationally when images of his mural in a classroom at the Niranjana Public Welfare School in Bihar, India, spread across the Internet. Using seven different types of soil found in Bihar, Asai transformed the classroom’s bare walls into an imaginative and inspiring place for local children and their families. The mural was sponsored by Japan’s nonprofit Wall Art Project and coproduced by the Japan Foundation. Asai has had an continuing role at the annual Wall Art Festival, in which Japanese and Indian artists are invited to paint, interact with students, and host workshops at schools in the villages of Sujata in Bodhgaya, Bihar, and Ganjad, Maharashtra. The artists’ works make classrooms dynamic and engaging learning environments for students and encourage communities to see value in education. In addition, the program seeks to draw attention from around the world to social inequality and the reality of deprivation in these villages.