Upcoming Exhibitions

Seven Smiles: Humor in Japanese Paintings

May 19, 2018 – August 26, 2018

Supporting Level Member Evening Preview May 17 | Exclusive Member Preview Day May 18

Humor has been a vital element in Japanese artistic expression, particularly in recent centuries. During the Edo period (1600-1868) the repressive rule of the Shogunate was alleviated through humor, both verbal and visual. As long as it was not aimed directly at the government, the great outpouring of comic poems, pointed jokes, witty puns, and amusing paintings was officially tolerated. The significant increase in migration of farmers and fisherman into towns and cities also contributed to a wide spectrum of comedy associated with the complex clash of people and customs.

This exhibition, organized by the University of Richmond, focuses on seven categories of humor that found rich patronage during this period: Parody, Satire, Personification, Word-Play, Fantasy, Exaggeration, and Playfulness through the medium of painting. The forty-eight works are drawn from private and public collections in the United States and include many famous artists of the time, such as Sōtatsu, Hakuin, Shōhaku, Jakuchū, Rengetsu, Nantenbō, and Kodōjin. Together they display a great variety of styles and subjects with the single common point of humor. Within their profoundly humanistic framework, the drollery, wit, waggishness, irony, and whimsy of the paintings in this exhibition will surely lead viewers to their own, often unexpected, smiles.

Hard Bodies: Contemporary Japanese Lacquer Sculpture

September 29, 2018 – January 20, 2019

Supporting Level Member Evening Preview September 27 | Exclusive Member Preview Day September 28

Since the Neolithic era, artisans in East Asia have coated bowls, cups, boxes, baskets, and other utilitarian objects with a natural polymer distilled from the sap of the rhus verniciflua, known as the lacquer tree. Lacquerware was – and still is – prized for its sheen, a lustrous beauty that artists learned to accentuate over the centuries with inlaid gold, silver, mother-of-pearl, and other precious materials.

Since the late 1980s, this tradition has been challenged. A small but enterprising circle of lacquer artists have pushed the medium in entirely new and dynamic directions by creating large-scale sculptures, works that are both conceptually innovative and superbly exploitive of lacquer’s natural virtues. To create these forms and shapes, contemporary lacquer artists bend tradition to their needs. Kofushiwaki Tsukasa’s Fallen Moon I is four meters (13 feet) long, a scale enabled by the kanshitsu technique, developed in China during the Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 220 AD), in which a base of lacquer-saturated hemp fiber is created with a mold. Many artists have gravitated to polystyrene, a lightweight, flexible, yet immutable material, such as Aoki Chie’s Body 09-1. For The Dual Sun, Kurimoto Natsuki used an even more modern base: an automobile hood.

Organized by the Minneapolis Institute of Art, the thirty works by sixteen artists comprise the first-ever comprehensive exhibition of contemporary Japanese lacquer sculpture. They have all been drawn from the Clark Collections at Mia, the only collection in the world to feature this extraordinary new form.

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