Ken Barnes’s new show at Shift is called oYos. While in Japan one year, he was given a round stone to carve, but taking it home became a conundrum. To make room for his socks and also reduce the weight, he drilled two holes all the way through, and bingo – the oYo was born. In Seattle, he refined it further and realized he had created a form worth exploring further. He now carves about one oYo per year when he finds a well-suited stone. He’s been dreaming of doing a show of all oYos for 15 years, and his dream has finally come true.
I imagined the word oYo was somehow related to the form itself. I saw the two holes as the o’s and the remaining stone as the Y, but in fact, it refers to the location in Japan where he was – he simply truncated Toyota, and thereby made up a word, a form, and a practice.
His pieces all have distinct personalities depending on the features of each stone. Beach oYo is a sand colored travertine, Argillite oYo is green and smooth, and MX oYo is Mexican Onyx. The one that really stands out to me, however, is Urban oYo – a large chunk of concrete housing a variety of smaller rocks within. They pop in hues of olive, green, mustard, yellow, off-white, bright white, grays, blacks, mottled browns and veined neutrals. They are so smooth within the light gray concrete they look meticulously painted – instead they’ve been meticulously polished which defines their crisp edges. The whole piece spins on a pin an inch off a rounded wooden base. The holes are large enough to put my arms through completely, and I feel the cold of the stone as I do this, wondering how something so cold can be so very inviting.