Category: Japanese Art

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.


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

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.

Kayoryi thread and paper towers by Naomi Kobayashi
55nk Untitled, Naomi Kobayashi, , Naomi Kobayashi, kayori thread, paper, 99″ x 54″ x 5″ (x2), 2006
Masakazu Kobayashi Sound Collage N99
22mk Sound Collage N99, Masakazu Kobayashi, silk, rayon, and aluminum, 55” x 115” x 5”, 1999


Notable in the exhibition are paper sculptures by Naomi Kobayashi and an elegant silk thread assemblage by her late husband, Masakazu Kobayashi. The couple often collaborated, working on installations that combined elements created by each of them. “These works express a shared vision and such common themes as the tranquility of nature, the infinity of the universe and the Japanese spirit,” Masakuzu once explained. “Naomi and I work in fiber because natural materials have integrity, are gentle and flexible. In my own work, I search for an equilibrium between my capacity as a creator and the energy of the world around me.”

The Seashore by Keiji Nio
25kn The Seashore, Keiji Nio, polyester, aramid fiber 48” x 48,” 2019

Keiji Nio’s interlaced wall work is inspired by a haiku, Rough Sea of Sado, from Japanese haiku master Matsuo Basho’s haiku series. In it, Basho describes the deep blue waves of the Sea of Japan as they are reflected in the night sky and the light blue waves hitting the beach. The work incorporates ribbons on which Nio has screened images from the sea and tiny pebbles from the shore. Nio is a faculty member at the Kyoto University of Art & Design, who combines industrial and natural materials in his works to make statements about nature and man’s relationship to the world.

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.


NY Asian Art Week, Part II — Cross Currents: Artists Influenced by Japan

Ame II (Rain), Kay Sekimachi , linen, polyester, transfer dye, textile paint, plain and twill weave, 44″ x 6″, 2007. Photo by Tom Grotta.

We are continuing our celebration of New York’s Asian Art Week in this post. Many of the artists who work with browngrotta arts have spent time in Japan, studied Japanese art or methods or simply cite Japan as an important influence. Check out the Selvedge magazines Japan Blue issue, published in August that includes an article on Naomi Kobayashi and one, by Rhonda Brown, about the influence Japan has had on four artists who work with bga HERE.

Examples of this influence abound. Kay Sekimachi, for example, is a Japanese American, born in the California Bay area. During World War II, she was interned with her family in relocation centers for two years. There she learned origami and to paint and draw. She did not visit Japan until 1975, but she has said that when she reached her mother’s village, “I felt like I was coming home.” She brought back silk cocoons and later her aunt sent her banana fiber from Japan that she incorporated into her paper bowls. References to Japan in her oeuvre are inescapable — from the towers she has created from antique Japanese paper, to the delicate flax and paper bowls she makes in shapes that mimic Japanese porcelain to her series of takarabako or woven boxes.  

New Nebula, Eduardo Portillo & Mariá Eugenia Dávila , silk, alpaca, moriche palm fiber dyed with Indigo, rumex spp, onion, eucalyptus, acid dyes, copper and metallic yarns, 74” x 49.25”, 2017. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Jennifer Falck Linssen uses an ancient Japanese paper carving skill – katagami – to create her. Katagami are handcarved flat paper stencils. This 1,200-year-old technique is traditionally used to resist-print kimono textiles in katazome. By drawing with a small knife on mulberry and cotton papers and shaping this carved paper into three-dimensional sculpture, Linssen recontextualizes the humble stencil – sculpting forms of pattern, shadow, and light.

K Yama-Dori, Katherine Westphal, paper and linen, 40″ x 45″, 1983. Photo by Tom Grotta.


In Venezuela, Eduardo Portillo and Maria Eugenia Dávila, create complex textile works of multiple materials. Their works are woven using Orinoco moriche palm fiber, wool and cotton, dyed with indigo, cochineal and eucalyptus, copper and metal yarns and their own cultivated silk — as they have established the entire process of silk manufacture growing mulberry trees on the slopes of the Andes, rearing silkworms, obtaining the threads, coloring them with natural dyes. The couple devoted 10 years to the study of indigo dye and its culture in Japan and other countries in Southeast Asia before embarking on this work. They aim to promote an understanding and appreciation of natural dyes as an element in textiles, its importance as a means to preserve and disseminate cultural values and as a medium of contemporary expression.


For Katherine Westphal, the influences of ethnic and folk art — African, Japanese and Indonesian were found in her textiles, sculptures, baskets, prints, drawings and items of wearable art. She created many garments inspired by ethnic clothing – primarily Japanese and Chinese prototypes. Her participation in the Wearable Art movement validated this activity, writes JoAnn Stabb, and brought it recognition. In particular, at the invitation of the American Crafts Council headquarters in New York, she led a four-person contingent who presented several lectures and workshops on “Wearable Art from North America” at the World Crafts Council international symposium in Vienna, Austria, in 1980.

Red Earth Jar, Nancy Moore Bess,  waxed cotton & linen, carved acrylic incense box lid, 4.25″ x 5.5″ x 5.5″, 2007


“I am interested in the ‘traditional’ as a reference point, not as a boundary,” says Nancy Moore Bess. A California native, Bess has lived in Japan and authored, with Bibi Wein, Bamboo in Japan (Kodansha International, Tokyo, Japan 2001). Her first trip to Japan in 1986 defined the course of her work for the next three decades. “Japan has influenced my work in many ways,” she writes, “but they all overlap – traditional packaging, basketry, bamboo, the crossover influences of East/West, the vocabulary of defining beauty and craftsmanship.” In works like Boxed Packages, one can find allusions to packaging techniques like tsutsumu. Other works reference traditional forms such as tea caddies. Her Sabi Tea Jar series, for example, was inspired by old, sometimes rusty, water jars used in tea ceremony that she found at flea markets. 


Don’t forget to check out our online exhibition, An Unexpected Approach: Exploring Contemporary Asian Art Online by visiting browngrotta arts’ YouTube channel (HERE) and view each individual work in the exhibition on Artsy (HERE).


HeArt-ists: Creative Couples

Power couples in the art world abound: Pablo Picasso and François Gilot, Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner, Georgia O’Keefe and Alfred Steiglitz. Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, Joseph and Anni Albers among them (see the In Good Taste, blog post, “12 Prolific Artist Couples,” for more: https://www.invaluable.com/blog/12-prolific-creative-couples/?utm_source=brand&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=weeklyblog&utm_content=blog020818). At browngrotta arts we’ve worked with several such couples or with one of such a pair. In honor of Valentine’s Day, a toast to them:

Power Couple Kobayashi's at browngrotta arts

Masakazu and Naomi Kobayashi installing Cosmos 98 at browngrotta arts for the opening of Tradition Transformed: Contemporary Japanese textile art & fiber sculpture

Masakazu/Naomi Kobayashi:
Masakazu and Naomi often collaborated on projects in the years before his death. In their collaborations, in the US, Israel, Singapore, France and JapanMasa and Naomi, generally created individual works that were installed together. Masa once explained the impetus behind their cooperative works: “These works express a shared vision and such common themes as the tranquility of nature, the infinity of the universe and the Japanese spirit. Naomi and I work in fiber because natural materials have integrity, are gentle and flexible. In my own work, I search for an equilibrium between my capacity as a creator and the energy of the world around me.”

Power Couple Rossbach/Westphal

Ed Rossbach and Katherine Westphal in their apartment in Berkley California

Ed Rossbach/Katherine Westphal: Ed Rossbach and Katherine Westphal were both innovators — he a maker of nonfunctional art baskets; she in her work with xerography and art quilts. The pair loved to travel and images and influences from those visits appear in their work in various ways. Images from the American West, including bison and feathers, appear in both Rossbach’s baskets and drawings and in Westphal’s wall hangings of tapas bark. Westphal made color photocopies of photos she took on their travels through Europe, Asia and the Middle East, and with a heat transfer process, inserted these images into her quilts and wearable art. Rossbach took photo images and reconstructed them with stitching and pins.

Power Couple Marriage in Form

Marriage in Form Set
Bob Stocksdale/Kay Sekimachi, Pistashio wood and Japanese paper with fibers, 1999

Kay Sekimachi/Bob Stocksdale: Kay Sekimachi and her late husband, woodturner Bob Stocksdale, collaborated to create an entire series of work, exhibited across the US as Marriage in Form. Sekimachi used his turned wood vessels as a form to shape her own ber vessels from hornet’s nest paper. Sekimachi applies a base layer of Kozo paper to a wood form, then laminates the hornet’s nest paper. The resulting objects appears delicate and ethereal but is actually stiff and stable.

Power Couple Claude Vermette and Mariette Rousseau-Vermette

Claude Vermette and Mariette Rousseau-Vermette, painting and tapestry

Claude Vermette/Mariette Rousseau-Vermette: For several decades, this couple worked in separate studios, in different media, in different ways. Yet, as the Museum of Contemporary Art in Baie St. Paul, Quebec noted when mounting a posthumous retrospective of Vermette’s paintings, ceramics and sculpture and Rousseau-Vermette’s tapestries, they shared “a common spirit, strong affinities and correspondences, links of course emotional and intellectual, the same historical and sociological context and the crossing of an important period of time.”

Debra Sachs_ Marilyn Keating

Debra Sach’s/Marilyn Keating’s joint exhibition, Going Solo & Tandem at the Stockton College Art Gallery, NJ 2014

Debra Sachs/Marilyn Keating: Sachs and Keatings met in the early 1970s when they were students at the Moore College of Art in Philadelphia. They were married in 2014. Their works — made spearately and together are showcased at The South Jersey Museum of Curiosities — not a physical location but a website they share (http://www.sjmoc.com/index.htm). Their individual works take different directions. Keating’s is more narrative, including depistions of fish, birds, bugs and dogs. Sachs describes herself as more design oriented. When they collaborate as they have in public commissions like Waders and Flockers 2011 at Stockton College, they divide the work — Keating builds the structure; Sachs completes the designs and paints the surface.
John McQueen/Margo Mensing: This couple, he a sculpture and basketmaker, she a poet and artist whose multimedia installations incorporate sculpture, ceramic and textiles, have exhibited together in New York, Massachusetts and New Zealand. In New Zealand, Mensing carved words into tree trunks.  “Marks made here,” she carved, “are no more than scars on these upstart upstanding trees – as brief as grass.”
Leon/Sharon Niehues: Leon and Sharon Niehues have created baskets together, including a basket-in-a-basket woven for the White House Collection of Contemporary Crafts created during the Clinton Administration. The couple moved from Kansas to the Ozarks in the 70s and learned basketmaking from by a book by the Arkansas Extension Service that explained how to make a white-oak basket from a tree. In his individual work over the last several years, Leon has focused on reinterpretingclassical and traditional forms.
To Love…

Happy New Year: to new beginnings, fresh starts, rewrites and resurrections


Mariyo Yagi’s works, including A Cycle, Infinity, resonate with her nawa principle: spiral energy of movement and human beings together creating a metaphorical rope, all pulling together. What better sentiment for the New Year? We at browngrotta arts wish you all an awesome and abundant year. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cDSqnF_Wjac

For Yagi, nawa unites two principles: na (you) and wa(I). When combined, nawa means “you and I,” representing a single word that signifies human empathy and endurance. In nawa, you and I, face each other beyond difference, thus signifies our creative interaction, to achieve interconnectedness, unity and peace.
Yagi worked for Isamu Noguchi in Japan in 1973-1976. In order to  fully realize her own projects, which are large in scale, Yagi became a licensed  civil engineer and contractor, the first Japanese sculptor to do so. Yagi has found her own global vocabulary, an infinite array of spiraling forms. From 1980 through the present, she has created artscapes in plazas, gardens, fountains, earthworks and other community art works, including a glass spiral at a Venice Biennial collateral event two years ago and a tall spiral. Axis for Peace and two other works at LongHouse Reserve in East Hampton. She has the ability to transform communities and build environments through her unconventional interactive art practice, which often involves untrained community volunteers. More about Yagi’s work can be found at www.browngrotta.com/Pages/yagi.php and at: http://www.mariyoyagi.net/English/cn53/ProfileE.html.