Monthly archives: November, 2017

30 Years of Japanese Baskets, Hisako Sekijima and Friends, Part 2

Poster from this year's Basketry Exhibition

Poster from this year’s Basketry Exhibition

“In Japan,” writes influential basketmaker Hisako Sekijima,”the idea of making ‘non-utilitarian baskets’ is still not so properly appreciated  even after 30 years!!”  Undaunted, for three decades, Sekijima and a loosely organized group of 80 or so other artists have continued to pursue what she calls contemporary basketmaking, but the Victoria & Albert Museum terms a “journey of radical experimentation,” maintaining a website, newsletter and mounting an annual exhibition in the process. For the 30th anniversary of this exhibition at the Yamawaki Gallery, Chiyoda-Ku, Tokyo, this fall, Sekijima wrote text to refresh insider artists’ vision and to expand the understanding of outsiders, artists and their audience. The statement below is adapted from that text.

 

Contemporary Basketry Influences
Ed Rossbach’s Baskets as Textile Art lead to a surge of contemporary basketmaking in 1970s.  The notion of baskets, as stated well in its title, has been spreading and stimulating basketmakers’ creative minds beyond US, to other countries in the world. In Japan, basketmakers have committed significantly to this worldwide, challenging trend in the last 30 years. Their output has been found in show catalogs as well as international publications, for example, those published by browngrotta arts.
I can explain first, why this notion of baskets is new and also, why it was taken up with interest by a wide range of makers. Prior to the 70s, baskets had been discussed either in terms of ethnology/folk culture or in relation of certain local traditional connoisseurship in tea ceremony, flower arrangement and daily life style design. In Rossbach’s book baskets were re-evaluated beyond those local cultural and historical confinements. That is, baskets were abstracted in their formal or conceptual expressive possibility. Baskets came to be challenged from various angles without consideration of conventional requirements. More recent results of this challenge include exploration of new material/structure, or of new spatial expression of linear elements.

 

The 90s
In 1999, at Yokohama Art Museum, an exhibition, Weaving the Worldpresented a term, “contemporary art of linear construction” to link a wide range of artistic expressions from artists including John McQueen, Norma Minkowitz, Hisako Sekijima, Kyoko Kumai along with Martin Puryear, Richard Deacon and Oliver Herring. This new context resulted in a fresh look of sculptural works which were not carved nor molded but made of linear substances. Baskets and fiber arts spoke clearly there.
 Red/White Revolving, Noriko Takamiya, paper constructions, 6" x 7" x 6", 2010

Red/White Revolving, Noriko Takamiya, paper constructions, 6″ x 7″ x 6″, 2010

 

The Present
More recently, in April 2017, I saw Women Artists in Post-War Abstraction at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, another show affirming the dawn of contemporary textile arts as an abstract expression. Under the category of “Reductive Abstraction” were combined works by Abakanowicz, Anni Albers, Sheila Hicks and Kay Sekimachi.  Well expressed by the works in the exhibition was these artists’ eager search for abstract expression, which they did by depriving textile techniques of conventional functions, materials and pictorial patterns. Though Rossbach was not there in the show featuring “women artists,” I was sure his new attitude toward baskets was rooted in the same soil.

 

Our Basketry Exhibition Group
Through 1980, I explored basketmaking, especially focusing on the interplay of material and structural mechanism.  And I started a class to introduce a conceptual approach to basketmaking in Japan. Some of my students from that period have been presiding over an annual basketry show since then to cultivate a new ground in Japan. The first show was held at Senbikiya Gallery, Chuo-ku Tokyo in 1986.The objective was then, and still is now, to generate mutual learning and promotion. In Japan, compared with the government-supported field for traditional art bamboo basketry and mingei folk basketry, the field for the contemporary basketry remains small and still not well known. The group avoided forming a so-called art/craft association or exclusive school of a core artist. I knew that in the Japanese cultural climate such attempts had seen quick rise and fall in a short time, for the exclusive/authoritative nature of organizations tends to distort its original ideal. It is a shared regard that binds our group and the conviction that each should be a leader to oneself and to the group, besides being a creative basketmaker.

 

Fuhkyoh Tsuruko Tanikawa, linked copper, 17" x 16" x 6.5", 2002, stainless steel wire

Fuhkyoh,
Tsuruko Tanikawa, linked copper, 17″ x 16″ x 6.5″, 2002, stainless steel wire

Cooperative Administration
We’ve aimed to keep the group healthy and growing.  A kind of standing committee is organized for each exhibition. Administrative jobs and budgets are shared equally and paid accordingly among the participants. Besides entry fees, the sales of the catalog and a 10% commission from sold works cover the costs. Often we win an invitational support or a subsidiary discount of the rental fee from galleries or art schools. Over time, the regular participants have learned to create show announcements and catalog booklets by computer and to set up a job grading for payment to the respective participants for contributed works. And all of the participants are now able to submit their own pages in digital data to a catalog editor. Each participant has individual pages of work and a statement of intent in the catalog.
For new entries, anyone can submit a portfolio one year in advance. These are reviewed by all of the exhibitors during the ongoing show.  Considerations are made not only for the work but also for the administrative contributions. It is not a juried show, but each participant should be responsible to preserve or better the quality of the show both aesthetically and operationally. Eighty artists have participated over the years — about 30-40 artists participate each year. Participants have included Noriko Takamiya, Kazue Honnma, Tsuruko Tanikawa, Chizu Sekiguchi, Hisako Sekijima,  Shoko Fukuda, Masako Yoshida, Shigeru Matsuyama, Rittsuko Jinnouchi, Nobuko Ueda, Haruko Sugawara.
Capricious Plaiting, Kazue Honma, paper mulberry plaiting, 56 x 43 x 20cm, 2016

Capricious Plaiting, Kazue Honma, paper mulberry plaiting, 56 x 43 x 20cm, 2016

 

Into the Future
Long-time participants such as Noriko Takamiya, Kazue Honma, Tsuruko Tanikawa and me have adopted our own co-operational, open system to keep the show going. We have been careful that this group activity not be for the benefit of exclusive members but should promote independent creative minds through basketmaking. Besides the annual exhibition, Kazue Honma’s editorship of Basketry News Letter and Noriko Takamiya’s handling of our website have been instrumental in keeping this loose group intact. The long list of topics include not only international exhibitions but also iworkhops, technical analysis into structure, experiments/researches of plants, accomplishments in archaeological reproduction and social commitments in developing countries.This year 350 people attended the exhibition, including art writer Janet Koplos and Scandinavian artists, Ingrid Becker and Kristin Opem and Professor Wu, Pei-shan, and students from the Textile Section of the Graduate Institute of Applied Arts of Tainan National University of Arts.

 

 

We wish Sekijima and her fellow artists another creative and inspiring 30 years!

Art Assembled: New This Week October

 

Yellow, Blue and Black, Gudrun Pagter, sisal, linen/flax, 42.5” x 95”, 2017

We started off October with Yellow, Blue and Black, a tapestry made by Danish artist Gudrun Pagter. When making tapestries, Pagter draws inspiration from architecture, using lines and shapes to achieve spatial tension. “I am engaged in a constant process of exploring the picture through a highly disciplined structuring of geometrical form elements and lines through a restricted color spectrum,” states Pagter. The expansive gray line in Yellow, Black and Blue not only creates a sense of movement but also “transforms a two-dimensional plane into a three-dimensional space.” Despite the name, there are actually many colors in Yellow, Black and Blue; Pagter mixed in light pink and yellow linen threads with the yellow sisal, deep green flax with the blue sisal and blue and black flax with the black sisal. Incorporating other colors into Yellow, Black and Blue helped Pagter to bring the tapestry to life.

 

Black 15 Boxes Steel mesh, electroplated gold, gold leaf, painted acrylic and patinated thread, 43" × 65" × 3", 2016

Black 15 Boxes Steel mesh, Jin-Sook So, electroplated gold, gold leaf, painted acrylic and patinated thread, 43″ × 65″ × 3″, 2016

Jin-Sook So’s Black 15 Boxes immediately grabs the viewers eye with its grid-like structure. In Black 15 Boxes So creates a grid pushing each of the 15 electroplated gold boxes off the wall, giving them a two-dimensional quality which flattens the boxes without completely altering the perspective. While the ability to peek inside So’s boxes and bowls captivates the viewer, the material’s ability to look like paper, silk and steel bend the viewer’s perception.

 

 

, Biagga (Sea Wind), Ulla-Maija Vikman, painted viscose and linen, 67 x 71 in, 2010

Biagga (Sea Wind), Ulla-Maija Vikman, painted viscose and linen, 67 x 71 in, 2010

When making Biagga (Sea Wind) Ulla-Maija Vikman was inspired by her material, linen. The vertical threads create their own natural rhythm complemented by their horizontal patterns. Vikman paints and repaints the threads two or three times in order to get the tones she desires. Vikman always hangs her work off the wall to give the impression of a free fall. The slightest breeze or draft moves will move the threads, altering the light and form of the piece, having a kinetic effect that brings the work to life.

 

 Left: White Shell Tongue n. 1, Federica Luzzi ,two fine art prints on “baritata” paper, 66.875” x 24.75” x 1.25”, 2006 Right: White Shell Tongue n. 2, Federica Luzzi, 78.625” x 32.75” x 1.25”, 2006

Left: White Shell Tongue n. 1, Federica Luzzi ,two fine art prints on “baritata” paper, 66.875” x 24.75” x 1.25”, 2006 Right: White Shell Tongue n. 2, Federica Luzzi, 78.625” x 32.75” x 1.25”, 2006

Federica Luzzi’s work focuses on nature, specifically leaves, bark and plant seeds. Above all, Luzzi is fascinated with plant seed, it is for that reason all of her work features the title Shell. “I am interested in their small and sinuous shapes, which assure their mobility from trees, and in their vital capacity of shutting themselves until the moment they mysteriously wake up, the seeds like ‘sleeper beauties,’ ” states Luzzi. The White Shell Tongue prints were born after a variety of conversations with researchers at the National Institutes of Physics in Frascati about the concepts of dark matter, antimatter, nuclear, subnuclear physics and the particle accelerator. The prints “suggest a primordial voice, speaking in a language now unknown to us but original, a pure, reductive writing externality, with wrappings and empties shells,” Luzzi explains. The vertical loom and tapestry art tools allow Luzzi to work with vegetal fibers from their frame to three-dimensionality.  Luzzi’s works are presented like a dimensional installation as if they are fragments of a galaxy: macrocosm and microcosm together.

 Federica Luzzi’s work focuses on nature, specifically leaves, bark and plant seeds. Above all, Luzzi is fascinated with plant seed, it is for that reason all of her work features the title Shell. “I am interested in their small and sinuous shapes, which assure their mobility from trees, and in their vital capacity of shutting themselves until the moment they mysteriously wake up, the seeds like ‘sleeper beauties,’ ” states Luzzi. The White Shell Tongue prints were born after a variety of conversations with researchers at the National Institute of Physics in Frascati about the concepts of dark matter, antimatter, nuclear, subnuclear physics and the particle accelerator. The prints “suggest a primordial voice, speaking in a language now unknown to us but original, a pure, reductive writing externality, with wrappings and empties shells,” Luzzi explains. The vertical loom and tapestry art tools allow Luzzi to work with vegetal fibers from their frame to three-dimensionality.  Luzzi’s works are presented like a dimensional installation as if they are fragments of a galaxy: macrocosm and microcosm together.