‘Paper Trail’ art installation explores undefined corners of consciousness

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The exhibit is part of the Friends of the Lehigh University Libraries programming with an artist visit and lecture scheduled for fall semester

The Lehigh University Libraries are pleased to welcome a new art exhibition to the Fairchild-Martindale Library, a collection of 20 works by contemporary artist Rob Sato.

A Los Angeles-based artist, illustrator and writer, Sato is a fluid talent; his work is boundless and eclectic in design, color, medium, and meaning.

In Paper Trail, installed throughout study space on the sixth floor south, Sato explores hyper-personal and emotional observations, often working with ideas related to memory and transformation. He argues that art is the only place where one can healthily play with unhealthy thoughts and “explore undefined corners of consciousness.”

Boaz Nadav-Manes, Lehigh’s University Librarian said he was excited to bring the exhibit to Lehigh. “This show enables our campus community to enjoy contemporary art that is both whimsical and serious and addresses complicated topics of personal identity and history using an artistic vocabulary that is approachable and fun to look at,” Nadav-Manes said. “I am looking forward to the stories that we can thread together, inspired by this beautiful exhibit and Rob Sato’s visit later this year.”

According to Sato, his art is made through a free-form process that layers autobiography, fiction, history, and observations about life into a foundation from where his imagination can dive into even more fantastical, absurd or surreal imagery. Within these works, he often plays with both personal and traditional symbology.

Glimpses of Sato’s Japanese American background is often a fixture found within his work. Implications of the history surrounding his ancestral heritage, such as the horrors of the Japanese internment camps during World War II, can be found throughout his portfolio.

Additionally, hints of inspiration taken from the graphic Japanese style of Manga and other Japanese influences are interwoven into his unparalleled artistic technique.

  • Descension | Colored pencil on paper
  • Everything is Happening Al at Once All the Time for Every Reason | Watercolor on paper
  • Bad Hands | Lithograph over screen print on Rives BFK
  • The Steps of Volta | 4 color letterpress print on heavy cotton Savoy paper
  • We Went Into the Dark and Came Back With Our Colors | Watercolor and colored pencil on paper

Although Sato is not afraid to delve into social commentary, both heavy and light, he is also unafraid of creating works made for the sake of pure aesthetics. Sato follows his intuition in every piece, weaving varying moods and imagery in his art with every mark or paint stroke.

Mainly worked in watercolor and various drawing tools, Lehigh’s curation of Sato’s works commands the room with both their kaleidoscopic colors and their fantastical narrative imagery and illustration.

The works on display in the EWFM Library hail from a combination of many of Sato’s prior exhibitions and will show in a diverse survey of his extensive and on-going body of work.

Library and Technology Services prides itself on showcasing a diverse range of artistic installations that expose the Lehigh community to exciting works of art–featuring works both contemporary and classical, 3D and 2D, as well as work done by students and professionals.

The Friends of the Lehigh University Libraries have been dedicated to enhancing high-quality library services through funding unique campus programming, as well as their support of other innovative library projects and installments.

The exhibition opened Monday, April 25 and continues through October, 2022.

Friends of the Lehigh University Libraries encourages you to visit the exhibition and to stay tuned for Rob Sato’s upcoming Lehigh visit dates and other programs related to the collection during the Summer and Fall semesters.

Story by Ella Fall ‘24

I prefer to not know quite what I’m aiming for either thematically, visually, or materially...It’s hard to get there, hard to be there, and hard to come back, but it makes the work more vivid, alive and resistant to being pinned down, all which encompasses my main objective–to make things that come from and continue to live in the wild.
Rob Sato