Category: Japanese Art

We’ve been hard at work — come see the results. Japandí opens this week!

Our Japandí exhibition features 39 artists from Japan, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden and over 150 individual works. Here are details about just a few of the artworks that the exhibition includes.

Ane Henrsen portrait
Ane Henriksen preparing the material for Reserve. Photo by Ole Gravesen

A striking wall work, Reserve, by Ane Henriksen of Denmark is featured in Japandí. Henriksen originally found the material covered with oil spots, washed up along the sea by the west coast of Denmark – fishermen use it, on the table in the galley, so the plates don’t slide of when they are on the high seas. The piece also incorporates webbed, rubber matting, colored with acrylic paint. The warp is silk glued together with viscose (from Japan). “Nature is threatened,” says Henriksen. “I hope this is expressed in my image, which at first glance can be seen as a peaceful, recognizable view of nature, but when you move closer and see the material, it might make you uneasy, and and spur thoughts of how human activity is a threat against nature. By framing the nature motif museum-like in a solid oak frame, I try to make you aware how we store small natural remains in reserves – in the same way we store exquisite objects from our past history in our museums.”

Birgit Birkkjaer portrait
Birgit Birkkjaer at work. Photo by Kræn Ole Birkkjær

Also included in the exhibition are baskets by Danish artist Birgit Birkkjaer. They are made of black linen and Japanese tatami paper yarn (black and hand dyed with rust). “The technique I used for the structure is rya,” she reports, “which was known in Scandinavia already in the Viking Age — and from the 1950s until the 1970s as a trend started by Danish/Finnish artist collectives. So, the baskets have roots in both Japan and Scandinavia.”

Norie Hatakeyama portrait
Norie Hatakeyama creating paper-plaited work. Photo by Ray Tanaka

Among the works on display from Japan are intricately plaited objects created by Norie Hatakeyama. The artist works with factory-made paper-packing tape to realize her geometric concerns. It is an experimental material that enables her to break free from traditional limitations.

“My work stems from an impulse to redefine both material and method,” says Hatakeyama. Her intricately plaited, three-dimensional works possess the energy of growing organisms. “The works ‘defy the viewer to imagine how they were accomplished,’”art critic and author Janet Koplos has observed.

Jiro Yonezawa at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Deer Isle, Maine. Photo by Tom Grotta

Jiro Yonezawa is also represented in Japandí with several works. Yonezawa is known for innovative bamboo basketry based on traditional techniques. He says that his recent baskets “represent a search for the beauty and precision in nature and a way to balance the chaos evident in these times.” The search for balance and harmony is one of the elements attributed to Japandi style.

Please join us!

The hours of the exhibtion are: 

Opening and Artist Reception: Saturday, September 25th: 11 to 6

Sunday, September 26th: 11 to 6

Monday, September 27th through Saturday October 2nd: 10 to 5

Sunday, October 3rd: 11 to 6

Advanced time reservations are mandatory; Appropriate Covid protocols will be followed. Masks will be required. There is a full-color catalog, Japandi: shared aesthetics and influences, prepared for the exhibition available at for pre-order at:  https://store.browngrotta.com/japandi-shared-aesthetics-and-influences/


Elements of Japandi: Hygge Meets Wabi Sabi

browngrotta arts’ Fall “Art in the Barn” exhibition, Japandi: shared aesthetics and influences opens on Saturday, September 25th at 11 a.m. and runs through October 3rd. The exhibition features 39 artists from Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Japan and explores artistic affinities among artists from Scandinavia and Japan. Artwork and design from these areas often incorporate several elements — natural materials and sustainability, minimalism and exquisite craftsmanship. In addition, some observers see similarities between the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi and the Scandinavian concept of hygge as making up a fourth aesthetic element that the regions share.

Writer Lucie Ayres notes that, “[i]n traditional Japanese aesthetics, wabi-sabi (侘寂) is a world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete (rough and organic textures. worn and weathered objects, colors that mimic nature) …. Hygge is a [related] Danish and Norwegian word for a mood of coziness and comfortable conviviality with feelings of wellness and contentment (soft textures, sentimental items, comfortable environs).”  (“A Knowledge Post: The Difference Between Wabi-Sabi, Hygge and Feng Shui,” Lucie Ayres, 22 Interiors, March 26, 2020).

Subcontinet by Toshio Sekiji
Toshio Sekiji, 28ts Subcontinent, red, green, black, natural lacquer, Hindi (Delhi), Malayalam (Kerala State) newspapers, 77.25” x 73.25” x 2.625”, 1998. Photo by Tom Grotta

Several artists in the Japandi exhibition evidence an appreciation for repurposing and appreciating materials as wabi-sabi envisions. Toshio Sekiji’s works are made of newspapers from Japan and India; one of Kazue Honma’s works is of Japanese telephone book pages. Paper is a material that creates an atmosphere as well as art. Eva Vargö, a Swedish artist who has spent many years in Japan, describes how Washington paper, when produced in the traditional way, has a special quality — light filters through paper from lamps and shoji screen doors creates a warm and special feeling, in keeping with the sense encompassed in wabi-sabi and hygge.

Japan by Eva Vargo
Eva Vargö, 7ev Japandí, Japanese and Korean book papers, 23.5” x 22.375” x 2.5”, 2021. Photo by Tom Grotta

Vargö admires the way the Japanese recreate worn textiles into new garments in boro and recreate cracked ceramics with lacquer through kintsugi. That’s the reason she reuses old Japanese and Korean book papers and lets them “find ways into my weavings.” By giving them a second life she honors those who have planted the trees, produced the paper, made the books, filled them with words and also their readers.

Reserve by Ane Henriksen
Ane Henriksen, 30ah Reserve , linen, silk, acrylic painted rubber matting, oak frame, 93.75” x 127.625” x 2.5”, 2015. Photo by Tom Grotta

“Anything made by real craftsmanship – objects created out of wood, ceramics, wool, leather and so on – is hyggeligt …. ‘The rustic, organic surface of something imperfect, and something that has been or will be affected by age appeals to the touch of hygge,” writes Meik Wiking, author of The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living (The Happiness Institute Series) William Morrow, 2017). Danish artist Åne Henriksen’s work uses the non-skid material from the backside of carpets and series of knots to create contemplative images that are engaging from a distance, and rough and textured up close. Jane Balsgaard, also from Denmark, uses wood and paper to create objects that reference boats and sails and wings, referencing the old as well as the organic by sometimes incorporating artifacts in her works.

Polynesian Boat by Jane Balsgaard
Janes Balsgaard, piece of Polynesian boat creates an artifact. Photo by Nils Holm, From Înfluences from Japan in Danish Art and Design, 1870 – 2010, Mirjam Gelfer-Jorgensen.

“I’ve never been to Scandinavia,” says Keiji Nio, “but I admire the Scandinavian lifestyle. The interior of my living room, furniture and textiles have been used for more than 25 years, but I still feel the simple and natural life that does not feel old.” Nio finds that artists from Japan and Scandinavia each have an affinity for calming colors. “When I saw the production process of the students from Finland at the university where I work, I was convinced that they had a similar shy character and simple color scheme similar to the Japanese.”

Join us at Japandi: shared aesthetics and influences to experience accents of wabi-sabi and hygge in person. The exhibition features 39 artists from Japan, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. The hours of exhibition are: Opening and Artist Reception: Saturday, September 25th, 11 to 6

Sunday, September 26th: 11 to 6

Monday, September 27th through Saturday October 2nd: 10 to 5

Sunday, October 3rd: 11 to 6 

20 people/hour; Advance reservations are mandatory; Covid protocols will be followed. 

There will be a full-color catalog prepared for the exhibition available at browngrotta.com on September 24th.


Elements of Japandi: Minimalism and Simplicity

The term Japandi combines Japan and Scandinavia to reference aesthetic approaches shared by artisans in the two areas. browngrotta arts will be explore these affinities in our upcoming exhibition, Japandi: shared aesthetics and influences (September 25 – October 3, 2021)Among the approaches that these cultures share is an appreciation for minimalism and simplicity. “Minimalist and mid-century designers have always been inspired by the design culture of Japan, so the cross between Scandinavian and Japanese design is rooted in a storied tradition. Today, in the Japandi style, we see more of a fusion of these two aesthetics, which makes them feel like equal partners in the space,” observes Alessandra Wood, Vice President of Style, Modsy (Jessica Bennett, “Japandi Style Is the Laidback Home Trend We’ve Been Waiting For,” Better Homes and Gardens, January 05, 2021).

Grethe Wittrock Detail
The Second Cousin, Grethe Wittrock (Denmark) white paperyarn knotted on steelplate, 67” x 78.75”, 2006. Photo by Tom Grotta

Danish artist Grethe Wittrock’s work includes expanses of twisted paper strands in single colors — minimal and simple yet powerful expressions of what Finnish Designer Alvar Aalto called “the language of materials.” Wittrock observed the similar appreciation for minimalism firsthand when she traveled to Japan and studied with Japanese paper makers and renowned indigo dyer, Shihoko Fukomoto. “I started to uncover what Nordic sensibilities are by living abroad,” Wittrock says. “I lived in Kyoto, and saw an aesthetic in Japanese design similar to the Nordic tradition. You could say that there is an agreement that less is more. As they say in the Nordic countries ‘even less is even more.’”

Tamika Kawata
Tamika Kawata, Permutation 7, Japanese safety pins, canvas on a wood board, 32” x 29.5”, 2017. Photo by Tom Grotta

Japanese artists have made similar observations. Tamiko Kawata, born in Japan, but living in New York for many years, reports working as an artist/designer position with a prominent glass company in Tokyo after four years of sculpture composition, architectural drawing and photography courses at University. “In those years, I often discussed the affinities of Scandinavian craft works with my colleagues. ‘Why do we appreciate skilful craft works? How can we produce them with a similar approach to understanding the skills in handicrafts and understanding the natural materials and the appreciation for simplicity that we share ?’” Kawata’s very first design, a set of crystal glass bowls, were exhibited with Scandinavian works in the SEIBU department store in Tokyo in 1959. They were purchased by Swedish artist/designer Stig Lindbergh who pronounced them the “most original glass designs in Japan.” It was so thrilling to me,” she says. “I was just 23 years old.” 

Gudrun Pagter detail
Detail of Gudrun Pagter’s http://www.browngrotta.com/Pages/pagter.php Thin Green Horizon, sisal, linen and flax, 45.5” x 55.5”, 2017. Photo by Tom Grotta

Gudrun Pagter is another Danish artist whose abstract works in primary colors reflect the modernism for which Scandinavia is known. “From the exotic and foreign land we find an aesthetically common understanding of a minimalist idiom,” Pagter says, “an understanding of the core of a composition — that is, cutting off everything ‘unnecessary.'” Pagter expresses this minimalist idiom in her work. In Thin, Green Horizon, her composition expresses a form of landscape. It might be the horizon between heaven and sea, or between heaven and earth, she says. In any case, the framed field shifts the horizontal line. There is a shade of difference between the two blue colors, the blue is slightly lighter in the framed field. The thin, horizontal line is made with many shades of blue and green thin linen. The main color is blue, but the thin, green horizon is essential to the whole picture. Pagter notes, “My old weaving teacher at the School of Design, said 40 years ago, ‘you have to be brave to express oneself simply, as a minimalist’ … I’m brave enough now, maybe!!”  

Kay Sekimachi weavings
Lines 2017, 10 Lines, 11 Lines, 17 Lines, 25 Squares, Kay Sekimachi linen, polyester warp, permanent marker, 13.5” x 13.5”, 2017. Photo by Tom Grotta

A series of simple weavings by Kay Sekimachi, a Japanese-American artist who lives in California, is a testament to restraint. Her spare markings on handwoven fabrics reference the paintings of Paul Klee and Agnes Martin .”Order is fundamental,” to the Japanese approach, observes Hema Interiors in its style blog, “but it’s an order based on balance, fleeing from symmetry and overly controlled spaces. The decorative elements are important to give personal brushstrokes to the spaces, always resorting to simple and organic elements”  (“Wabi Sabi Interiors,” Comparar Estilios de Decoración, Hema Interiors).

Join us at Japandi: shared aesthetics and influences to see more examples of ways these elements are exchanged and expressed. The exhibition features 39 artists from Japan, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. The hours of exhibtion are: Opening and Artist Reception: Saturday, September 25th: 11 to 6; Sunday, September 26th: 11 to 6; Monday, September 27th through Saturday October 2nd: 10 to 5; Sunday, October 3rd: 11 to 6; Advanced time reservations are mandatory; Appropriate Covid protocols will be followed. There will be a full-color catalog prepared for the exhibition available at browngrotta.com on September 24th.


Art Out and About – Exhibitions in the US and Abroad

With mask requirements and other safety protocols in place, museums worldwide are reopening with new exhibitions. From West to East — and a couple abroad — here are several worth traveling to see. Stay safe when you go!

International Fiber Arts X 
through September 21, 2021
Sebastopol Center for the Arts 
282 South High Street
Sebastopol, CA 95472 
info@sebarts.org
https://www.sebarts.org

Dolphin of the Ganges
Neha Puri Dhir’s Dolphin of the Ganges. Photo by Neha Puri Dhir

Our own Neha Puri Dhir took 2nd place in the International Fiber Arts X exhibition at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts in California. The winning work, Dolphin of the Ganges, was created in tribute to a sea creature that has become endangered. “I grew up on the banks of the River Ganges, in the picturesque town of Haridwar amongst lush forest and rich riverine life,” writes Dhir. “The Ganges Dolphin that once thrived in these waters has now disappeared – a victim of the pollution from indiscriminate development in this hilly region. This work is a memorial to a majestic creature and a warning against the irreversible damage caused by human activity.” Kyoko Kumai’s work, Moonlight Wind-L was also selected for the exhibition.

Kay Sekimachi: Geometries
through October 24, 2021
Berkeley Art Museum and the Pacific Film Archive
2155 Center Street Berkeley, CA
(510) 642-0808
bampfa@berkeley.edu 
https://bampfa.org/program/virtual/kay-sekimachi-geometries

Kay Sekimachi: Geometries
Kay Sekimachi: Geometries. Photo by Johnna Arnold

In nearby Berkeley, Kay Sekimachi: Geometries is on view. Curated by Janelle Porter, Geometries includes more than 50 objects that highlight the Sekimchi’s material and formal innovations across her career. First recognized for her woven monofilament sculptures, made between 1964 and 1974, Sekimachi has since used linear, pliable elements—monofilament, thread, and paper, among other materials—to create experimental objects that fold together art and craft, found and made, and Japanese and American artistic traditions. 

Olga de Amaral: To Weave a Rock
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Through September 19, 2021
Audrey Jones Beck Building
5601 Main Street
713.639.7300
https://www.mfah.org/exhibitions/olga-de-amaral-to-weave-a-rock

Olga de Amaral, Brumas (Mists), 2013, acrylic, gesso, and cotton on wood, courtesy of the artist. © Olga de Amaral / Photograph © Diego Amaral

Heading to Texas, in Houston is the first stop of a touring exhibition featuring the exquisite work of Olga de Amaral who has “pioneered her own visual language within the fiber arts movement. Her radical experimentation with color, form, material, composition, and space transforms weaving from a flat design element into an architectural component that defies the confines of any genre or medium.” It travels next to Cranbrook Art Museum in Bloomfiels Hills, Michigan. There is a catalog that accompanies the exhibition (https://www.amazon.com/Olga-Amaral-Houston-Museum-Fine/dp/3897905965/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=to+weave+a+rock&qid=1628505072&sr=8-1).

Art Japan: 2021 – 1921
Through September 24, 2021
1635 W St. Paul Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53233
(414) 252-0677 ext. 110
info@thewarehousemke.org
https://www.thewarehousemke.org/current

Existing -2-D, Naoko Serino, 2006 and Red Aperture, Kiyomi Iwata, 2009. Photos by Tom Grotta

In the Midwest, The Warehouse MKE in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is exhibiting the second of its three-part look at art in Asia, Art Japan: 2021- 1921, curated by Annemarie Sawkins. The exhibition features over 120 woodblock prints, etchings, lithographs, calligraphy, drawings, photography, ceramics, basketry, and textiles, all from the extensive permanent collection of The Warehouse and includes work by Naoko Serino, Jiro Yonezawa, Kiyomi Iwata and Hiroyuki Shindo. The first exhibition in the trilogy was India: Photographs (2019). The third, Then and Now: China, opens October 8th, 2021.

Women Take the Floor
September 13 – November 28, 2021
Boston Museum of Fine Arts
Avenue of the Arts
465 Huntington Avenue
Boston, Massachusetts 02115 
617-267-9300
https://www.mfa.org/exhibition/women-take-the-floor

Women Take the Floor challenges the dominant history of 20th-century American art by focusing on the overlooked and underrepresented work and stories of women artists. The exhibition, began in 2019. The current reinstallation—or “takeover”—of Level 3 of the Art of the Americas Wing advocates for diversity, inclusion, and gender equity in museums, the art world, and beyond. It features women painters, photographers and fiber artists among others.

The Social Fabric: Black Artistry in Fiber Arts, An Exhibition in Homage to Viki Craig
Through October 24, 2021
Morris Museum
6 Normandy Heights Road
Morristown, NJ 07960
(973) 971-3700
info@morrismuseum.org

Deeply rooted in quilt-making tradition, today’s Black fiber arts incorporate conventional textile skills with contemporary art and design practices. The exhibition features 50 works by over 27 artists, including Aminah Robinson, Beverly McCutcheon, Bisa Washington, Carole Robinson, Clara Nartey, Denise Toney, Ellaree Pray and Faith Ringgold.

Abroad:

Echigo-Tsumari Mail Art Exhibition
Through October 31, 2021
Echigo-Tsumari Art Field
Gallery YUYAMA
446 Yuyama matsunoyama
Toka-machi Niigata-ken
025-532-2218 

Echigo-Tsumari Mail Art Exhibition including Reborn by Kyoko Kumai

Kyoko Kumai‘s 19.5″ stainless-steel sphere, Reborn, is included in an exhibition at the Gallery YUYAMA in the Echigo-Tsumari Art Field through October 31st. Day trips are available to the Art Field which includes a number of out sculptures and structures. The site’s motto: “artworks waiting in the vast nature. Let’s go on a satoyama art walk!”

Britt Smelvaer: Around his father’s boat
Bømlo Kulturhus
Through August, 15 2021
Kulturhusvegen 20
5430 Bremnes, Norway
53423500 
post@bomlokulturhus.no
https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=no&u=https://www.bomlokulturhus.no/program/sommarutstillinga-britt-smelvaer-omkring-baaten-hans-far/&prev=search&pto=aue

In Norway, graphic works by Britt Smelvaer tell of memories, knowing the connection and having roots fixed in the environment by the seacoast, and not far from what was in childhood. Learn more about the project here: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=da&u=https://svfk.dk/project/omkring-baaten-hans-far&prev=search&pto=aue

Britt Smelvaer work at the Hovedøya exhibition

A Sky of Mirror
Though September 12, 2021
Hovedøya Kunstal
Hovedøya, 0150 
Oslo, Norge
920 62 866
https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=no&u=https://kunstsalen.no/&prev=search&pto=aue

The summer exhibition at Hovedøya features works by various artists including work by Britt Smelvaer created after a trip she made to Damascus, Syria.

The Nook Exhibition
Kunstbygningen in Vrå 
Through September 1st
Højskolevej 3A 
Vrå, Denmark-9760 
+45 9898 0410 
info@kunstbygningenvraa.dk
https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=da&u=https://www.kunstbygningenvraa.dk/vraa-udstillingen/&prev=search&pto=aue

Polynesian boat
Polynesian boat transformed to artifact by Jane Balsgaard. Photo by Nils Holm Christensen

In Denmark, an exhibition of mixed media scuptures and acrylic paintings by Jane Balsgaard appear in a group exhibition.

Carole Frève, Glass Sculptor
September 24, 2021 to January 23, 2022
Musée des métiers d’art du Québec (MUMAQ) 
615, avenue Sainte-Croix 
Montréal, QC, H4L 3X6, Canada
+1 514-747-7367

Open Up to You, Carole Frève
Open Up to You, Carole Frève, 2015. Photo by Tom Grotta

Carole Frève has always included two major components in her work: on the one hand, constant research on the combined techniques of glass and electro-formed copper and, on the other, the story the work tells the observer. This exhibition highlights work she ahs created over the span of a 20-year career.


Artist Focus: Naoko Serino

Naoko Serino portrait
Naoko Serino, 2021

Japanese artist, Naoko Serino, our focus this week, works in jute, a remarkably adaptable material that provokes references to other biological structures. Jute’s golden sheen and sinuous strands “yield a most spectacular softness and luminosity,” notes author Moon Lee (http://thecreatorsproject.vice.com/blog/naoko-serino-spins-vegetable-fiber-into-golden-sculptures). In Serino’s work, “the natural fibers are spun densely or pulled thin, making for infinite gradations of densities. Irregular shapes in varying degrees of transparency provoke an effect that is strongly biological. Spheres, tubes, tubes contained within spheres, spheres contained within cubes, and rows of coiled strands evoke thoughts of phospholipid bilayers of cell membranes, veins, sea sponges, and so forth.” 

Existing -2-D
13ns Existing -2-D, Naoko Serino, jute, 56″ x 56″ x 11″, 2006

Serino creates her sculptures by first covering molds with jute fibers, which she removes when they have dried, creating a final work combining individual fiber elements. Some of the works that Serino creates are small individual pieces, while others are installations that are large enough to fill an entire room. Despite the fragile appearance of the jute fibers, the works have an imposing presence. 

Existing II
12ns Existing II, Naoko Serino, jute 7.375” x 8.5” x 8.5”, 2016. Photo by Tom Grotta

“I moved to a seaside town 30 years ago. I felt the light and wind there and my feelings were stirred by my proximity to Nature,” Serino says. “I began to see with new eyes and I discovered a material, jute. I think the discovery was inevitable. In and through my hands, a dignified hemp produces a shape that contains both light and air. I am grateful that I came across this material. It is a joy for me to express things with jute that stir deep emotions in me. I see myself continuing to express my feelings in this form.”

Generating outside
Generating Outside, Naoko Serino, jute, 39.5″ x 24″ x 4″, 2020. Photo by Naoko Serino

Serino’s work was included in the Fiber Futures: Japan’s Textile Pioneers exhibition which traveled from Japan to New York, Milan, Copenhagen and other venues. She was awarded the Silver Prize in the 10th Kajima Sculpture Competition and the Encouragement Award in the 16th Kajima Sculpture Award in 2020. She was a awarded the first prize in the Collection Arte & Arte alla Torre delle Arti di Bellagio, Como, Italy in 2014, the Silver Prize in the 10th Kajima Sculpture Competition and the Encouragement Award in the 16th Kajima Sculpture Award in 2020.

Generating Mutsuki
17ns Generating Mutsuki, Naoko Serino, jute, 9.5″ x 8″ 8″, 2021. Photo by Tom Grotta

Serino is one of the artists whose work is included in browngrotta arts’ next Art in the Barn exhibition, Adaptation: Artists Respond to Change (May 8th – May 16th) http://www.browngrotta.com/Pages/calendar.php. Her work for the exhibition, Generating-Mutsuki, came out of her desire to create a work along the lines of the large-scale sculpture she created for Kajima Sculpture competition in a smaller size.


A Whiter Shade of Pale

Bow-W-98.2, Masakazu Kobayashi; Petites-ailes-de-glacé-blanc, Micheline Beauchemin
Bow-W-98.2, Masakazu Kobayashi, rayon, aluminum, 30″ x 33″ x 3.75″, 1998; Petites-ailes-de-glacé-blanc, Micheline Beauchemin, nylon, silk and silver aluminum wire, lead wire, 30″ x 32.25″ x 7″, 1980’s. Beauchemin used white to evoke the icy rivers of Quebec. Photo by Tom Grotta

As American Songwriter opined, “who could have possibly predicted the success of “A Whiter Shade Of Pale,” which went to #1 in the UK in 1967, #5 in the US, and has outlasted so many other flower-power and psychedelic-flavored tracks from that era to be one of the most enduring songs of the 60’s?” 

Traverser, Gyöngy Laky
Traverser, Gyöngy Laky, ash, paint, “bullet for buildings” (trim screws), 22” x 22” x 22”, 2016, Photo by Tom Grotta
paper sculpture, Naomi Kobayashi
Untitled, Naomi Kobayashi, , Naomi Kobayashi, kayori thread, paper, 99″ x 54″ x 5″ (x2), 2006. Photo by Tom Grotta
Ondes, Simone Pheulpin
Ondes, Simone Pheulpin, cotton, 26” x 49.5”, 2016, Photo by Tom Grotta. Pheulpin creates her wall- and free-standing sculptures exclusively of white cotton tape.

It’s an unforgettable lyric that often comes to mind when we view works by artists who work with browngrotta arts. Many of of them work in white, to evoke clouds or an icy river or purity or to explore the absence of color or a dichotomy with black. 

Second Cousin, Grethe Wittrock
The Second Cousin, Grethe Wittrock, white paper yarn knotted on steel plate, 67” x 78.75”, 2006. Photo by Tom Grotta
Sara Brennan tapestry
Detail of Sara Brennan tapestry, wools, linens and silk. Brennan incorporates dozens of shades of white in her tapestries. Photo by Tom Grotta
White Paper Shell, Federica Luzzi
White Paper Shell, Federica Luzzi, paper cord, 12.875″ x 12.875″, 2016. Photo by Tom Grotta
Plan Your Parenthood-Population, Judy Mulford
waxed linen, polyform, antique mother of pearl buttons, beads, pins, gesso, knitting needle, gourds, rock, wooden doll chairs, 22″ x 7.5″ x 8″, 2009 . Photo by Tom Grotta
Blanc de Blanc, Mariette Rousseau-Vermette
Blanc de Blanc, Mariette Rousseau-Vermette, wool, 4’6″ x 10′, 1980. Photo by Tom Grotta

“In many cultures, white is seen as the color of innocence and virginity, purity, loyalty and peace,” noted the Textile Museum in Tilburg, the Netherlands in its materials for its 2019 exhibition, Black & White | Symbolic Meaning in Art & Design. In the West, white clothing and decoration are symbolic of the joy around births, baptisms and weddings, the Museum notes, while in many African and Asian cultures, as well as in medieval Europe, white is the traditional color of death and mourning. 


Artist Focus: Yasuhisa Kohyama

Our artist focus this week is on Yasuhisa Kohyama.

portrait of Yasuhisa Kohyama and Wakae Nakamoto
Yasuhisa Kohyama and Wakae Nakamoto. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Yasuhisa Kohyama’’s masterly ceramics are inspired by the ancient Shigaraki, Jomon and Yayoi ceramics of Japan. Kohyama has played a significant part in reviving the use of the traditional Japanese anagama wood-firing kiln. He was the first potter in the area to build such a kiln since the Middle Ages. Using the distinctive Shigaraki clay and a wood-firing kiln, he has created modern ceramic vessels and sculpture, which are vigorous and new, but timeless in their beauty.

Kohyama shapes his asymmetrical forms using a piano string, thereby creating distinctive, rough surfaces. The clay with its nuggets of feldspar creates a tactile quality not often seen in contemporary work. No glazes are used, but the wood ash and the placement in the kiln produce an extraordinary array of colours and shading on the surface.

grouping of Yasuhisa Kohyama ceramics; wood-kiln ceramic
Yasuhisa Kohyama wood-kiln ceramics. Photo by Tom Grotta

The exhibition of the works from the first firing of the anagama kiln in 1968 created widespread interest in Kohyama’s work, with famous potters such as Shoji Hamada visiting the exhibition. Collectors and museums were quick to acquire his works, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Gardiner Museum of Art in Toronto, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Museum of Art and Craft in Hamburg and the Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park in Shiga, Japan.

“Keeping a tradition alive and fresh like that is not easy for any contemporary Japanese ceramic artist. No other Shigaraki artist, in my humble opinion, does it with the flair and diversity of Kohyama,” wrote Robert Yellin in the catalog for Kohyama’s 2002 Tokyo exhibition, which was held at the Takashimaya Department Store in Tokyo. (http://www.e-yakimono.net/html/kohyama-yasuhisa.html) “His larger works, which speak of the wind, canyons, and mountains, would look equally at home in a traditional Japanese tokonoma (alcove) or a marbled penthouse in London. To have that spirit in form, whatever the size, cross borders with such ease is a testament to the integrity and vision of Kohyama. Ceramic art is indeed universal.”

Detail of Yasuhisa Kohyama
Detail of Danpen by Yasuhisa Kohyama 神山易久, 2016. Photo by Tom Grotta

Kohyama’s work is the subject of Yasuhisa Kohyama: The Art of Ceramics (Arnoldsche Verlagsanstalt, Stuttgart, Germany), co-authored Susan Jeffries, former curator of the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art in Toronto, Canada and Michael R. Cunningham, former chief curator of Asian Art at The Cleveland Museum of Art. Kohyama’s work also graces the cover of Contemporary Clay: Japanese Ceramics for the New Century by collectors Alice and Halsey North and curator Joe Earle.

48yk Sai, stimuli: character of Sai an ancient word that means container for offering to Gods, wood-kiln ceramic, 14.5″ x 13″ x 3.25″, 2011. Photo by Tom Grotta

Catalog Lookback: Fan Favorites, an online exhibition

Portraits of Hisako Sekijima, Gyöngy Laky, Mary Merkel-Hess and Kay Sekimachi
clockwise: Hisako Sekijima 1994 solo exhibition at browngrotta arts. Gyöngy Laky 1993 preparing on a piece for her two-person exhibition at browngrotta arts. Our first meeting with Mary Merkel-Hess 1990 at her exhibition at the NY Armory. Kay Sekimachi in her closet selecting works for her 1992 two-person exhibit with Bob Stocksdale at browngrotta arts. Photos by Tom Grotta

In our 50 catalogs, we have showcased the work of 172 different artists. Four of these artists, however — Mary Merkel-Hess, Kay Sekimachi, Hisako Sekijima and Gyöngy Laky —  we have repeatedly chosen as a focus. Each has been the subject of more than one catalog — solo or two-person or special grouping  — and each has been featured in several of our themed survey publications. These artists explore different materials or forms, creating objects and works for the wall.  That willingness to innovate and reinvent has made them continuously collectible for those who acquire works in breadth and for those who pursue the work of individual artists in depth as well.

Details of works by Mary Merkel-Hess
Details of Mary Merkel-Hess’ paper sculptures on and off the wall. Photos by Tom Grotta

Mary Merkel-Hess’s work was the subject of one of our first catalogs in 1992 (#2) Mary Merkel-Hess. The work in our first solo exhibition of her work was brilliantly colored — vessels of green, indigo, cornflower, red and bronze — but our catalog technology was strictly black and white. Despite the noncolor depiction in the small catalog, the lyrical works of papercord and reed were popular and sold out. Her work was acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art that year — one of the first contemporary baskets to enter the Museum’s collection. The success of that exhibition spurred us to host a second show, work by Merkel-Hess and Leon Niehues, in 1996 (#15). Merkel-Hess threw us a curve, though, by skipping the color that we considered her hallmark and producing, instead, a show of work made of translucent white papers — gampi, kobo, abaca, flax — some of it tinged with gold.  These works turned out to be as popular as those in color. Since then, her works have become larger and more sculptural and her recognition has grown while her popularity with collectors has remained a constant.  Her work will be part of Volume 50: Chronicling Fiber Art for Three Decades (#50), in September of this year. 

Details of works by Kay Sekimachi
Details of baskets and sculptural weavings by Kay Sekimachi. Photos by Tom Grotta

In catalog (#3) Bob Stocksdale and Kay Sekimachi, also 1992 and still black and white, Kay Sekimachi’s work made its first appearance, coupled with wood bowls turned by her husband, Bob Stocksdale. Sekimachi has reinvented her practice several times in her lengthy career. She studied weaving with Trude Guermonprez in San Francisco and Jack Lenor Larsen at Haystack in Maine in the 50s. By the 60s she was working with complicated 12-harness looms to create ethereal hanging sculptures of monofilament, then a new material. They were featured in MoMA’s Wall Hangings exhibition in 1963, Deliberate Entanglements at UCLA in 1971 and the Lausanne Biennial in 1975 and 1983. Sekimachi was also part of the contemporary, nonfunctional basket movement with other California artists in the 1960s and 1970s.  This body of work included small woven baskets and woven paperfold-like boxes made of antique Japanese papers. For our exhibition in 1992, she created gossamer flax bowls and patched pots of linen warp ends and rice paper. For our our 1999 exhibition, (#24) Bob Stocksdale Kay Sekimachi: books, boxes and bowls, she created woven boxes and books, and bowls in typical Japanese ceramic shapes that she formed using Stocksdale’s turned bowls as molds. Still the subject of museum recognition and collector acclaim, Sekimachi continues to work at 94, weaving intimate, abstract weavings reminiscent of drawings in pen and ink. 

Details of works by Gyöngy Laky
Details of of sculptures on and off the wall by Gyöngy Laky. Photos by Tom Grotta

In 1993 we produced our first catalog featuring Gyöngy Laky’s work (#5) Leon Niehues and Gyöngy Laky. The exhibition included 13 vessel shapes and one wall work. In 1996, we visited Laky’s complex construction again (#16) Gyöngy Laky and Rebecca Medel. “I think of myself as a builder of sketches in three dimensions,” she said of her textile architecture. The 1996-1997 exhibition featured Laky’s three-dimensional words, an important aspect of her oeuvre. The two versions of the word “No” or “On” illustrated the myriad ways in which such themes are deftly articulated by Laky. Affirmative No. 1 was made of brightly colored, coated telephone wire, piled and sewn. Affirmative No. 2  was much larger — the “O” made of branches still covered with bark, the “N” made of pieces of stripped, unfinished wood. The catalog also contained an image of That Word.  Now in the collection of the federal court in San Francisco, it spells out “ART” in larger-than-life, 3-d letters made of orchard prunings that are seven feet tall. Laky has continued creating word sculptures that combine natural and manmade materials, as disparate as bleached cottonwood branches, plastic army men and construction bullets of metal. In 2008, The New York Times Magazine commissioned her to create titles for its environmental survey, “The Green Issue.” The works that resulted were awarded a Type Directors Club Award. Laky will have two works in Volume 50: a large vessel-shaped sculpture and a type-related, free-standing arrow.

Details of works by Hisako Sekijima
Details of Bark basket sculptures in varying materials by Hisako Sekijima. Photos by Tom Grotta

Last, but certainly not least is Hisako Sekijima, whose innovation and artistry seem to know few bounds. We have focused on her work in three catalogs — (#8) Hisako Sekijima/1994; (#19) Glen Kaufman and Hisako Sekijima/1998; (#30) Japan Under The Influence: Innovative basketmakers deconstruct Japanese tradition/2001. Bark and vine become fabric and thread, framing and nails as Sekijima conducts her experiments in volume and void. The first catalog of Sekijima’s work (#8) included works in wide variety of materials — cherry bark, kudzu vine, cedar, willow, hackberry, bamboo. We were particularly pleased when The New York Times made the 1994 exhibition and the variety of work included the subject of a full-page article in its Connecticut section. They turned to her work again in The New York Times Magazine, including a work of kudzu vine in an article on the uses of the invasive species. We visited Sekijima’s work again in 1998, pairing her pieces, this time of zelikova, apricot, hinoki, walnut and palm hemp bark, with jacquard weavings by Glen Kaufman featuring photographic images of Kyoto. In 2001, we combined works by seven basket artists in Japan: Under the Influence, Innovative basketmakers deconstruct Japanese tradition #30). Sekijima was included, as were four of her students from Japan — Norie Hatekeyama, Kazue Honma, Noriko Takamiya and Tsuroko Tanikawa— each of whom had, like their teacher, had mastered Japanese basketmaking tradition, only to give it a twist. Sekijima wrote in Japan Under the Influence, that Kay Sekimachi (also featured in the catalog) was one of the American artists whose “new notions of basketmaking” and “new forms” had a decisive impact on her as she studied basketmaking in the late 70s. “Since then,” she wrote, “Sekimachi has always been one of my teachers at a distance. Her work has always reminded me of a Japanese respectful expression orime tadashii, which literally means, ‘one’s kimono preserves neat lines of folding which connotes integrity of behavior.’” Sekijima’s work, A Line Willow IV is part of our September exhibition. Like the works these artists have produced over nearly three decades, A Line Willow IV,  represents a line innovative art making that is knotless, homogeneous and flexible. 

See more at our September exhibition, Volume 50: Chronicling Fiber Art for Three Decades (#50).


browngrotta arts: A Favorite of Insomniacs and Those Stuck at Home

Browsing browngrotta.com
Browsing browngrotta.com

As we all hunker down and prepare to do things in new — and safer — ways, we wanted to remind you that browngrotta arts has been offering art content online for many years. Check us out in your down time:


browngrotta.com

Find Images of hundreds of works, Artist Statements and Video Links.

Our website, blog, Facebook and Artsy pages
Our website, blog, Facebook and online exhibit

arttexstyle.com

Learn more about How Artists Work in our Process Notes posts, about Artsy Locations and Exhibitions in our Dispatches posts and Read Like an Artist by checking out Books Make Great Gifts roundups. More popular posts: Two on Stitching on the Silver Screen — about movies that feature knitters and weavers and stitchers.

browngrotta arts Facebook Page

Every Monday we post a video link.
Some worth revisiting or viewing for the first time: The house favorite award-winning “Textile Magicians” about five Japanese contemporary fiber artists who live in the cedar forests near Kyoto. See it here: https://vimeo.com/139602030.
“Visionaries: Season 2, Episode 10” featuring Kay Sekimachi, Jack Lenor Larsen , Forrest Merrill on art and innovation on PBS: https://www.pbs.org/video/visionaries-anoopg/.

Online Exhibitions

Take a virtual tour — this month we’ve created an online exhibition for Asia Art Week New York, “Transforming Tradition: Contemporary Japanese and Korean Art” on our You Tube channel at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uPzR-5EXyGI

Stay Well, Stay Home and Stay Inspired!


Asia Art Week NY – Transforming Tradition: Japanese and Korean Contemporary Craft Part II

In honor of of Asia Art Week 2020 this March, browngrotta arts has collated contemporary works by 12 artists born in Japan and Korea for an online exhibition, Transforming Tradition: Japanese and Korean Contemporary Craft. The works include ceramics, weavings, baskets and sculptures made of paper and silk.

Yasuhisa Kohyama ceramic
42yk Ceramic 42, Yasuhisa Kohyama, ceramic, 17.3” x 15.8” x 6.1” 2006


Several ceramics by Yasuhisa Kohyama, are included in Transforming Tradition. Kohyama is a renowned Shigaraki potter who uses ancient techniques to explore new forms. He gained widespread attention in Japan in the 60s when he built one of the first anagama kilns since medieval times. Collectors and museums have been quick to acquire his works, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Gardiner Mueum of Art in Toronto, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Museum of Art and Craft in Hamburg and the Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park in Shiga, Japan. Kohyama’s work graces the cover of Contemporary Clay: Japanese Ceramics for the New Century by collectors Alice and Halsey North and curator Joe Earle.  

95jy Ecdysis; Jiro Yonezawa 27″ x 8″ x 5.75”, 2019

Bamboo sculptures by Jiro Yonezawa are also part of browngrotta arts’ exhibition. Yonezawa has been recognized with the Cotsen Prize, a commission from Loewe to work in leather and inclusion in the prestigious Japan Nitten National Fine Arts Exhibit. Yonezawa has explained his work: “Bamboo basketry for me is an expression of detailed precision. These baskets represent a search for the beauty and precision in nature and a way to balance the chaos evident in these times.”

Gold Leaf wall sculptures by Chang Yeonsoon
21-23cy Chunjeein-1, 2 & 3, Chang Yeonsoon abaca fiber, pure gold leaf, eco-soluble resin, 33” x 7.125” x 6.75”, 2019

Korean artist Chang Yeonsoon, who creates ethereal works of starched indigo, was Artist of the Year at the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Seoul in 2008. She was a finalist for the Loewe prize in 2018. Her work has also been acquired by the Victoria & Albert Museum in London; she is the first South Korean artist in that collection.

Soul of a Big Blue Bowl b y Jin-Sook So
53jss Soul of a Big Blue Bowl, Jin-Sook So steel mesh cloth, gold, silver, painted acrylic and steel thread 39” x 32” x 6”, 2015


For 35 years, Jin-Sook So, also of Korea, has been creating dimensional works — sculptural vessels and wall pieces — from stainless steel mesh to international acclaim.

You can view Transforming Tradition: Japanaese and Korean Contemporary Contemporary Craft Online by visiting browngrotta arts’ You Tube channel at: https://youtu.be/uPzR-5EXyGI . You can see each individual work in the exhibition on Artsy: https://www.artsy.net/show/browngrotta-arts-transforming-tradition-japanese-and-korean-contemporary-craft and learn more about the artists included by visiting arttextstyle http://arttextstyle.com and browngrotta arts’ website: http://www.browngrotta.com

Artists included:
Chiyoko Tanaka (Japan)
Jiro Yonezawa (Japan)
Masakazu Kobayshi (Japan)
Naomi Kobayashi (Japan)
Kyoko Kumai (Japan)
Kiyomi Iwata (Japan/US)
Yasuhisa Kohyama (Japan)
Keiji Nio (Japan)
Hisako Sekijima (Japan)
Toshio Sekiji (Japan)
Jin-Sook So (Korea)
Chang Yeonsoon (Korea)

about browngrotta arts
browngrotta arts represents the work of more than 100 international contemporary textile and fiber artists. The firm has published 49 art catalogs and placed art work in dozens of private and corporate collections in the US and abroad, as well as in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Arts and Design, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Museum. browngrotta arts’ website, http://www.browngrotta.com, and its blog, http://arttextstyle.com, are destination sites for art consultants, interior designers, collectors and practitioners.