MARCH 12 - APRIL 16, 2011
Cavin-Morris is pleased to announce FLAWLESS: Contemporary Japanese Lacquer, an exhibition of new work in an ancient medium brought to a new time. Timed to pick up nuances from New York's Asia's week, this exhibition will be the first showing of this specific roster of lacquer artists in the gallery and in New York. This exhibition will cover a wide range of forms and techniques and an incredible variety of surfaces in this demonstration of an ancient form that has become a vital part of Conceptual Craft.
Its sources are organic. "Urushi" or lacquer is produced as a sap from a species of sumac trees, called Rhus Vernicfera in Latin. In its liquid form it is poisonous, when it hardens it is non-toxic and acid and waterproof. Each tree produces only one cup of sap. It is mixed with diatomaceous earth and then dyed in traditional and non-traditional colors for elaborate layering onto the artworks. Each layer has to thoroughly dry before anything else can be added. It isn't uncommon for up to fifty layers to be used. A minimum of two months and up to two years is required for a single piece. The variations on technique are infinite and many will be seen in this show from the large unadorned biomorphic shapes of Fumie Sasai to the sword like shapes of Kurimoto Natski who utilizes among other techniques, that of maki-e in which metallic and colored lacquer powders are added to the lacquer while wet.
What made the idea of showing lacquer attractive to us was the challenge of an artist infusing personal style into a form that seemed so regimented by tradition. We see this more in ceramics where artists take a utilitarian object and infuse it with something that takes it a step further into artwork without losing complete sight of its roots or of the hand. Jiro Yunisawa's bamboo sculptures seem to refer to other time periods with non-traditional shapes and techniques burnished by his use of urushi in his dying of the bamboo. Even the Murata Yoshihiko lacquered wooden hairpieces step beyond use in their antic dances. Though small they seem like exotic insects or unclassified life forms, which have become on a seasonal breeze.
Post-modern irony is present as well in the artists Kurimoto Natski who has lacquered the hood of a car with ancient circles within circles or the pop cultural references in the work of Sano Akira and the austere pop stiffness of the iconic figures of Yoshino Takamasa. These pieces demand a double take as they play on their imagery before the viewer realizes the awesome technique involved.
These are only some of the artists represented in this exhibition. We hope to open up an appreciation of an art form often overlooked because of its past emphasis on technique and decoration rather than individual artistic expression. Japanese Contemporary lacquer still holds its deep relationship with process and perfection but, like ceramics, has become a part of the continuously developing language of the Contemporary Artists' discourse.