Contemporary Japanese Kōgei and KODAMA: Tree Spirit
Now through Saturday, November 14
Onishi Gallery – 521 W. 26th Street (between 10th and 11th Avenues)
Two exciting exhibitions opened this week at Onishi Gallery, one of the only galleries in Chelsea that specializes in contemporary Japanese art. Contemporary Japanese Kōgei is a finely curated exhibition of works by a selection of Japanese artists at the very top of their fields, and KODAMA: Tree Spirit is Nagai Megumi’s fourth solo exhibition at Onishi.
In conjunction with the upcoming exhibition at the Museum of Arts and Design, Japanese Kōgei | Future Forward, the ceramics and metalwork on view at Onishi Gallery challenge the conventional image of “craft.” The translation of the word kōgei, “artisan crafts,” belies the true span of the genre, the colloquial definition of which is constantly in flux. Drawing on traditions that have endured for generations, these artists’ practices are rooted in the past and yet also fully embrace contemporary culture. Many are also the children of modern kōgei masters, and they carry on the techniques taught to them by their fathers. Taking inspiration from fashion and design, as well as from other works of contemporary and modern art, these artists create work that serves as a dialogue between Japan’s past and future.
This exhibition focuses on important works by HAGINO Noriko, HANNYA Taiju, HATA Shunsai, KIMURA Moriyasu, KONNO Tomoko, MIZUNO Mineo, ŌHI Toshio, OSHIYAMA Motoko, SHOMURA Hisaki, SUZUKI Miki, TOKUDA Yasokichi IV, and YOSHITA Yukio and also formally introduces the work of the jeweler KOJIMA Joji.
The works on view highlight a number of traditional techniques utilized in innovative ways, including mokumegane, fukiwake, Kutani porcelain, Ohi and ao-bizen stoneware.
Born in Japan but currently based in New York City, Nagai creates paintings that are Eastern in character and yet Western in technique. Continuing to explore themes found in Japanese fables and Edo period artworks, Nagai’s newest body of work further emphasizes the relationship she has with her preferred substrate: natural wood. Used by both Japanese and Western artists for centuries, wood is much more than a simple substitute for canvas. The artist views each piece of wood that she uses as having a unique character, and even its own spirit, or kodama. In Japanese folklore, kodama are the spirits of trees and are mentioned alongside demons (oni) and gods (kami) in the Heian period (c. 794-1185) epic, The Tale of Genji. Although described in many different ways throughout history, kodama invariably symbolize the importance of nature and the forest in Japanese culture.
The works on view represent Nagai’s reverence for the kodama within the wood that she uses. Each finished painting is the result of collaboration between the artist and the wood; without the cooperation of the wood grain, the artist would be unable to draw a straight line. Even her palette is determined by the undertones of the wood. In the end, it is only by finding harmony with the kodama that Nagai is able to create her paintings.
For more information, please visit Onishi Gallery’s website.