“A surprise that lasts a lifetime. The infinite reach of cacti.”
“This is also a cactus?” The “ANNULATION” exhibition held in Shizuoka City, in early 2022, signified a major turning point for the once common cactus. The organizer of the exhibition is Ryosuke Yokoe, a Shizuoka-based artist who creates works using cacti.
The venue “Barber & Transit Gallery Sard Shave” is a fusion of a barbershop and gallery that regularly hosts exhibitions from various artists. In addition to the red-themed circular fixtures and lighting, the graphic panels, made by Yokoe, add a glossy color to the space.
This time the space hosted a collaboration between friend and Shizuoka-based pottery artist, Chikashi Kurebayashi. “Normally, I grow cacti in black plastic pots, but one of the interesting things about cacti is that their expressions can completely change when they are replanted in ceramic pots. It’s almost like the plant becomes an art object,” says Yokoe.
Yokoe’s first encounter with cacti occurred approximately 15 years ago. It was during this time, whilst hanging out with his painter and photographer friends, that he found himself searching for his own medium to work with.
He visited a fair in Shizuoka City and met a shopkeeper in his 60s who was selling unusual cacti to a noticeable crowd. “I thought I’d seen many things in my life, but I had never seen anything like this. It was the form that attracted me the most.” He bought a few pots but within six months they had all become rotten.
“Unusual cacti” (such as cacti with fasciation or monstrose mutations) are rare. “Many people used to treat mutations like trash, saying, ‘We don’t need them, take them.’ But the younger generation of producers began to value them saying, ‘This one is cool, too!’ That’s when the price began to soar, and now they are treated as a rarity.”
It can take decades to grow a cactus, if not longer. And once they are sold, they no longer exist within the shop and are no longer part of the collection. Still, Yokoe wanted more people to see cacti, so he began taking pictures of them and incorporating them into graphics. “I don’t think it would make sense for someone who doesn’t cultivate cacti to do this. I don’t just want to sell cacti; I really want to show them in other ways with cacti as the foundation,” he says.
“It’s been over ten years since I started growing cacti. In the future, I’d like to collaborate with beat makers, filmmakers, photographers, and other people with different skillsets. The things I want to do using cacti as a medium are increasing more and more.”
In the same manner that Yokoe first encountered cacti, people often see his cacti and become enamored by them. They ask him for advice on how to start their own store or how they themselves can become producers.
Grafting and combining cacti offers an almost endless number of unique combinations. It will be interesting to see what kind of circle of creation will grow and be cultivated around Yokoe and his cacti in the future.
Under the title “THE FASCINATED,” Yokoe created a mobile exhibition, where cacti were displayed throughout various locations in Japan. In addition, he has created numerous apparel and posters that graphically incorporate cacti. He is the owner of the Shizuoka City boutique shop “doodle & haptic” and the editor-in-chief of the web magazine “GOOD ERROR MAGAZINE”.