Monthly archives: July, 2013

Vanishing and Emerging: Hideho Tanaka’s Retrospective in Tokyo

photo by Tom Grotta

In 2012, the Musashino Art University Museum & Library, Tokyo, Japan hosted, Hideho Tanaka Retrospective: Vanishing and Emerging, an exhibition commemorating the retirement of craft and industrial design professor, Hideho Tanaka. The exhibition featured Tanaka’s signature sculptures made of industrial fibers. In 1985, Tanaka reformulated his notions about the nature of fiber.

VANISHING & EMERGING 2009 I, stainless steel and paper, 22 x 21cm, photo by tanaka nahoshi

VANISHING & EMERGING 2009 I, stainless steel and paper, 22 x 21cm, photo by Jun Sanbonmatsu

Since then, he explained, as part of the Beyond the Surface: Japanese Style of Making Things, he shifted his form of expression “from a longing for eternity to an embracing of things born of relationships that incessantly change and develop.” Why cloth and fiber? Tanaka explains that, “in those days I was constantly inquiring into the nature of material attractions and the necessities of expression. I then became interested in creative forms peculiar to fiber materials, which emerge in time and space and yet which also metamorphose and disappear. This was also part of my realization that there was a kind of fascination in the hierarchy that places accidentals beneath conscious things. The creation of a contrast between what vanishes and what remains, and the moving of this indoors, allows me certain special kinds of expression.

VANISHING 1995 Ⅰ Hideho Tanaka, stainless steel and paper, 27.5" x 59" x 59", photo by tanaka nahoshi

VANISHING 1995 Ⅰ
Hideho Tanaka, stainless steel and paper, 27.5″ x 59″ x 59″, photo by Jun Sanbonmatsu

These have developed into experiments in the intervention of fire into a combination of stainless steel wire (a contemporary inorganic material), and linen (an organic material).” The exhibition was accompanied by a 91-page catalog, Hideho Tanaka Retrospective: Vanishing and Emerging, which is available of $39.95 from browngrotta arts.


Intercultural Approaches: Artfully Connected at the Swedish Embassy in Tokyo

Artfully Connected

Artfully Connected artists and Swedish Ambassador Lars Vargö.

Earlier this year, the Embassy of Sweden in Tokyo presented Artfully Connected, a look at Sweden through the eyes of  an exciting group of artists from Japan, Korea, Sweden and the US, curated by artist

Eva Vargo Download me Korean paper cord, Korean old book paper, Japanese ink 48 x 48 cm, 2012

Eva Vargö, Download me (photo: Eric Micotto)
Korean paper cord, Korean old book paper, Japanese ink
48 x 48 cm, 2012

Eva Vargö. The artists who participated were: Young Soon CHA, Korea (Fiber),

CHO-Hikaru

CHO Hikaru, Every thing is not what it seems, Acrylic painting (Photo: Hikaru Cho), 60 × 42 cm, 2013

Hikaru CHO, Japan (Photos and videos), Miwha OH, Korea (Metalsmith – Jewelry), Hisako SEKIJIMA, Japan (Basketmaker),

Jin-Sook So, View the Storsjön (Photo: Pack Myung Re) Steel mesh, electroplated silver, gold painted acrylic color, 90 x 42 x 9 cm, 2012

Jin-Sook So, View the Storsjön (Photo: Pack Myung Re)
Steel mesh, electroplated silver, gold painted acrylic color, 90 x 42 x 9 cm, 2012

Jin-Sook SO, Sweden/Korea (Paintings on steel mesh), Naoki TAKEYAMA, Japan (Enamelled works on copper), Eva VARGÖ, Sweden(Paper weaving and paper Objects),

Lisa VERSHBOW Corsages, six brooches on a stand, Silver, Copper with color pencil patina and wet-felted wool Installation – 21 x 67 x 3 cm, (each brooch approx. 14 x 3 x 1 cm), 2013

Lisa Vershbow, Corsages (photo: Eric Micotto) six brooches on a stand, Silver, Copper with color pencil patina and wet-felted wool, Installation – 21 x 67 x 3 cm, (each brooch approx. 14 x 3 x 1 cm), 2013

Lisa VERSHBOW, USA (Metalsmith – jewelry). Click the links on each name and you can read a brief “story” about the artists and the influence Sweden had on their works.

Hisako Sekijima SE, Kudzu vine, 33 x 20 x 17 cm, 2013

Hisako Sekijima
SE (photo: Eric Micotto) Kudzu vine, 33 x 20 x 17 cm, 2013

Hisako Sekijima, for example, describes the map of Sweden she found on the internet as influencing, SE, the basket she created for the exhibitionHikaru Cho’s Every Thing Is Not As it Seems speaks to discrimination.”We always bear prejudice and a sense of discrimination somewhere inside,” says the artist in her story. “Often, we don’t even notice it. I have experienced it many times while living in Japan with Chinese nationality. People differentiate the own ethnic group from others in order to strengthen the solidarity.” You can read more about Cho, in the Asahi Shimbun article, “Japan-born artist turns her eye to discrimination,” by Louis Templado, June 14, 2013, http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/people/AJ201306140011. The Embassy also teamed up with well-known Swedish cameramaker Hasselblad to create a behind-the-scenes video, filmed by Eric Micotto, that you can view here: http://vimeo.com/65644600.


In Memoriam: Niels Diffrient

Niels Diffrient

Niels Diffrient, photo by Helena Hernmarck

browngrotta arts lost a close friend and the world an influential designer last month, with the passing of Niels Diffrient. With an academic foundation in design and architecture and a degree from Cranbrook Academy, Diffrient channeled his knowledge of engineering, architecture and human factors into the creation of highly functional and aesthetically timeless designs, including the Freedom, Liberty and World chairs for the company Humanscale. His three-volume reference work, Humanscale 1/2/3, Humanscale 4/5/6, and Humanscale 7/8/9 explored the relationship of spine to chair and contributed to the quest for the totally comfortable place to sit down. In 2002, he told TED audiences about his early design inspirations — aircraft and aviators in the 1930s — and much more. You can watch him at:

Diffrient’s was an interesting personal story, which he covered in a memoir last year, Confessions of a Generalist.  He was refreshingly forthright, in a way that those of us from the Midwest recognize and appreciate. Born on a farm in Star, Mississippi in 1928, his family moved to Detroit in search of work. Diffrient attended Cass Technical High School in Detroit, Wayne State University and completed a BFA at Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield, Michigan. At Cranbrook, he worked with Eero Saarinen on contemporary chairs for Knoll. After graduation, traveled to Italy on a Fulbright Scholarship in 1954 and worked on the award-winning Borletti sewing machine. Returning to the US, he joined Henry Dreyfuss Associates and worked on products for, among others, John Deere, Polaroid and Bell Telephone. He taught at UCLA and Yale. He moved to Ridgefield, Connecticut with his wife, textile artist, Helena Hernmarck, in the early 80s and founded Niels Diffrient Product Design, where the couple shared a design and tapestry studio until his death. Diffrient spoke to Martin C. Pedersen of Metropolis in February about linkage in his life, work and philosophy http://www.metropolismag.com/Point-of-View/June-2013/Niels-Diffrient-A-Tribute-in-Conversation. “Your new book seems like a different thing. It’s part memoir, part philosophy of design,” Pedersen observed. “I can’t separate those things,” Diffrient responded. “I don’t go to work and become a different person. I live exactly what I preach. My own life is guided by the same principles. So I can’t separate them. I didn’t really think about it, but in a way it helps to make this sort of thing personal. I think it gives it life.” He will be greatly missed.