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Highway Junction 110-105 is a large, roughly square slab of white marble, the top of which is intricately carved to form a topographical map of the intersection between the Harbor Freeway (Interstate 110) and the Century Freeway (Interstate 105) in Los Angeles. The sculpture was produced in an edition of three; Tate owns the first in the edition. The curving form of the motorway junction divides the top of the sculpture into four quadrants in which smaller roads, buildings, trees and tiny vehicles complete the detailed landscape. Sone used aerial photographs and his own videos and sketches as the basis for precise models in foam and cardboard of various highway junctions in the Los Angeles area. He then took his models to China, where experienced marble masons fabricated the finished sculptures under his supervision.
Sone moved to Los Angeles from his native Japan in 2000 and each of the junctions he has depicted in marble has an autobiographical resonance, marking one of the journeys he regularly takes across the city. Los Angeles is the quintessential car-based American city; its citizens rely on automobiles as their main means of transportation. It has often been noted that Los Angeles has no real centre; the spread-out nature of the metropolis means that Los Angeles’ often heavily congested freeways define the specificity of Los Angeles in a way that other aspects of its architecture and landscape do not. Sone has described this phenomenon, saying, ‘Everyone can draw New York or Paris. I can draw the center of Paris. But L.A., what is L.A.? ... I found how beautiful intersections are. I understand, this is the beauty of California, I got it. I think the intersection is a new symbol for the independent society’ (quoted in Roug, p.E73).
The medium adds classical gravitas to the modernist subject. Motorways denoting movement and twentieth-century ideals of progress are rendered in a still, solid material. The soft, porous Chinese marble makes the miniature landscape look as though it is carved out of glistening snow, suggesting a dreamlike, idealised version of the dirty, noisy experience of driving on busy motorways.
The work was first shown with three other marble sculptures of Los Angeles highway interchanges in the solo show Yutaka Sone: Jungle Island at MOCA at the Geffen Contemporary in Los Angeles in 2003. The sculptures were part of an installation that included masses of verdant tropical plants. Dirt paths through the plants led visitors to small clearings where the marble sculptures appeared gleaming through the foliage. The installation provided a literal visualisation of the notion of an urban jungle. Sone has compared motorway junctions to blooming flowers (see Roug, p.E72); the swooping curves of the link roads connecting the freeways mimic natural forms.
Sone trained as an architect and he remains interested in the interaction between individuals and their environment. He is particularly drawn to environments that appear extreme, inhospitable or unfathomable. His previous subjects have included the jungle and nocturnal journeys through foreign landscapes. Highway Junction 110-105 suggests the human element without depicting it directly; the detail of the sculpture does not include figures. The artist has commented that ‘even if it is terribly jammed, the freeway often looks as if it is completely empty of humanity’ (quoted in Min Nishihara, ‘From There to Here’, Travel to Double River Island, p.85).
Min Nishihara, Yoko Nose and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Travel to Double River Island: Yutaka Sone, exhibition catalogue, Toyota Municipal Museum of Art, 2002.
Yuko Hasegawa, Heterotopias, exhibition catalogue, Japanese Pavilion, 50th Venice Biennale, 2003.
Louise Roug, ‘In L.A. for art’s sake’, Los Angeles Times Calendar Sunday, 4 May 2003, pp.E72-3.