Contemporary Japanese Lacquer Sculpture at Morikami l Art Loft 712 Segment

My name is Carla Stansifer, I’m the curator
of Japanese art at the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens. Today, we’ll be talking about Hard Bodies:
Contemporary Japanese Lacquer Sculpture. This exhibit is actually on loan from the
Minneapolis Institute of Art, and we feature 16 contemporary artists. We have at least one piece from each of the
artists in the show, and they have a wide variety, as you can see, of textures, styles,
and techniques that they use. Lacquer is an extremely versatile material. You can do so much with it in the right hands
of someone who’s skilled and understands the material. I think the most important thing I want people
to know is that these artists, they come from a very long lineage, a very long tradition,
and all of the artists are very aware of that, they honor that tradition, but yet, they’re
doing completely new and innovative things. Each of the pieces, they’re coated with lacquer,
and I should say that lacquer can coat just about anything. Paper, bone, wood, metal, shark skin, it can
be coated on anything, and it will protect that substance, but it has to go through a
curing process. It’s not a drying process, where you’d be
removing humidity. They actually put into a container where you
add heat and you add moisture, and then it cures, the catalyst, the chemistry takes over,
and it creates this wonderfully hardened surface that protects it from heat, electromagnetic
rays, bacteria, all kinds of things. This is a really fun piece. This is a piece by the artist Someya Satoshi. He’s one of the younger artists in the show,
and he had a smaller version of this bull, and the collector, Willard Clark, saw it,
and as it happens, Mr. Clark was a cattleman by trade, and so, he saw the small bull, he
fell in love with it, and he said, can you make another one for me, and make it bigger? So, he did, and it’s a really lively, fun
piece. It has a lot of pictural imagery, and I think
a lot of visitors like to come and look at this piece. Everyone sees something a little bit different. Love the variety. He’s, the artist is really blending imagery
from East and West. We have some things here, a good example is
the moo that you see in English, and up above, it says moh, which is what the cow says in
Japanese, so again, right there, he’s showing that he’s trying to reach out to the audience
on both sides. This piece is by an artist, Aoki Chie, and
she’s a really great provocative artist, she’s upandcoming, and in this piece, she’s chosen
to go back to the 8th century for some of her inspiration. During the Nara period in Japan, there was
a long, wellestablished tradition of creating portraits out of lacquer of famous monks and
teachers of the Buddhist tradition. And also, the decoration, you look at this
moire pattern that she has, it looks very modern and contemporary, but that also goes
back to the 8th century. I think a really good example of the environmental
aspects of these pieces comes from the work by Fujita Toshiaki, and what he does is, he
creates these pieces by adding the unrefined lacquer, he adds one layer a day for two years,
so he essentially grows these pieces, much like a mollusc or tree bark. And it’s interesting to me, when we look at
lacquer as a material, lacquer was usurped by the introduction of plastics, and now,
with a lot of what’s going on environmentally, we need to steer away from plastics, we may
be coming back to lacquer as a more utilitarian product. This piece is by Kurimoto Natsuki. One of the things I love about this piece,
it’s called Dual Sun, and the use of shell inlay, or raden, as it’s called in Japanese,
is highlighted here, and you can see the different shades of shell as you go through the piece,
and the different colors tell you where the shell comes from. This piece is called Undercurrents 2009II. It’s by an artist called Matsushima Sakurako,
one of the female artists represented in the show, and this piece, I love it. She does a lot of wearable art. She started off in metal, and as her pieces
got larger, they were a little more unwieldy, so she shifted to lacquer, which is really
light, deceptively light. If you were to pick these pieces up, you would
see, you’d be surprised how light they are. I also just love the beauty of these pieces. They’re so wonderful, they’re so innovative,
and yet, they’re linked to the tradition, thousands of years of tradition that the artists
are very aware of and honoring, but they’re doing it in new and unique ways.

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