Functional art from Ishikawa Prefecture, representing the intersections of art and craft, tradition and modernism, is on display at Japan Society until Friday, February 14.
Organized by the Ishikawa Prefectural Government and selected by Museum of Arts and Design’s chief curator emeritus David McFadden and design curator Ron Labaco, the nineteen objects are examples of how artists today are preserving time-honored techniques of lacquerware and yuzen textiles while infusing a contemporary flair.
You’ll see maki-e, Japanese lacquer dusted with gold or silver powder, in intricate designs on iPhone cases; a playful dog that’s an incense burner made in the Kutani-yaki style of porcelain; and fans made of transparent Ushikubi silk, a high-quality fabric.
“History is not in the past,” says McFadden, “It’s living here in the present.”
In a country whose number of skilled craftsmen in ancient traditions and time-consuming techniques have been dwindling, it is refreshing to see young artists such as Yuki Nakamura, who made her first trip to New York as part of this exhibition, carrying on crafts such as Urushi lacquer. She is also teaching at her alma mater, the Kanazawa College of Art, ensuring that this timeless skill is passed down to an even younger generation.
Nakamura’s work is a blend of driftwood, fragments of shells, and bold red lacquer, one of the true fine-art pieces in the collection.
Probably the most unusual piece is a cyclist’s helmet by Kaba Jikichi Lacquerware Company. Atop a crown of Styrofoam is a beautifully rendered lacquerware shell, using traditional maki-e techniques, to depict a phoenix.
Ishikawa Prefecture is located on the Sea of Japan, a place of natural beauty and rich history. Through Ishikawa Arts Now, you can see the beauty and traditions of the prefecture up close. The artwork is not for sale at Japan Society, but some pieces are available for purchase through The Art of Travel, a company that organizes unique, custom arts-related travel experiences throughout Japan.