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Review: Jacob Hashimoto's 'Gas Giant' takes powerful shape

Jacob Hashimoto’s installation at the Museum of Contemporary Art Pacific Design Center is a lot like the weather: all around us and bigger than everyone.

Made up of thousands of small paper-and-wood sculptures that resemble miniature kites, Hashimoto’s sprawling piece also puts visitors in mind of massive gatherings, whether they’re made up of people crowded into stadiums or represented by numbers too big to wrap your head around — like the national debt or the amount of Twitter followers celebrities have. The rapidly changing relationship between individuals and groups takes powerful shape.

“Gas Giant” begins right inside the front door, meanders into a first-floor gallery and then picks up momentum as it drifts up a wide stairway to the towering second-floor gallery, where it blossoms to fill the enormous space with an explosion of beautifully composed forms. If Rose Bowl floats went to heaven, this is what they would look like.

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Yet there’s nothing otherworldly about Hashimoto’s down-to-earth work. To wander among its components, all suspended from the ceiling on what must be miles of black thread, is to feel as if you are inside a 3-D painting. Its parts function like the dots in a Pointillist painting, sometimes clustering into groups and at others clashing with those around them.

Rather than overwhelming visitors with awesomeness, labor-intensity and size, Hashimoto puts his light touch to good use. “Gas Giant” may be massive, but it’s as gentle as a summer breeze and as intimate as a whisper, its simple shapes, basic colors and attractive patterns user-friendly.

The long hours of labor required to cut the paper, affix each sheet to toothpick-thin frames and string them into 50-foot strands is obvious. So is the careful planning that went into the composition. But both are far less important than the work’s overall effect: the uplift it generates in visitors of all stripes.

A sort of secular ascension transpires as your eyes follow Hashimoto’s forms skyward. The motion is slow and sensual because the journey is as important as the destination. (“Gas Giant Studies,” a beautiful exhibition of his drawings bears this out. It’s on view through April 5 at Martha Otero Gallery in West Hollywood.)

In the age of Big Data, it’s inspiring to see art that keeps the big picture front and center. “Giant Gas” makes you feel as if you are part of something bigger than all of us, and just the tip of the iceberg.

MOCA Pacific Design Center, 8687 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood, (310) 657-0800, through June 8. Closed Mondays. Admission free. www.moca.org

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