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Modern Twist: Contemporary Japanese Bamboo Art Exhibition at the Kalamazoo Institute of ArtsJune 22 - Sept 15, 2013
From the museum website:

Modern Twist explores the innovative shape that bamboo art has taken since the mid-twentieth century, highlighting the creativity of 17 contemporary artists through a stunning collection of 37 works. These artists have challenged previous aesthetic conventions of bamboo art by experimenting with nonfunctional, sculptural forms, and have pushed their medium to new levels of concept and technique.
The pieces in the exhibition range from the mid-1960s to 2010, with most made during the last ten years. All but one of the artists still actively design and create new artworks, and many of the pieces have never been seen before in the United States.
Bamboo art is a unique Japanese phenomenon. As early as the eighth and ninth centuries, bamboo objects were used in Buddhist rituals, tea ceremonies, and ikebana (Japanese flower arranging), and became important features of these traditions. Bamboo art has been less widely recognized than other Japanese decorative arts such as ceramics and lacquer, but it is actually a highly demanding medium that requires years of study under the tutelage of a bamboo master. Modern Twist brings the creativity, innovation, and expertise of these artists to the forefront of the international art world.

Photo above: UEMATSU Chikuyu, Moon Rise on Autumn Fields, 2007. Bamboo (nemagaridake), rattan, lacquer, Japanese washi paper, hemp.

Modern Twist: Contemporary Japanese Bamboo Art
Exhibition at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
June 22 - Sept 15, 2013

From the museum website:

Modern Twist explores the innovative shape that bamboo art has taken since the mid-twentieth century, highlighting the creativity of 17 contemporary artists through a stunning collection of 37 works. These artists have challenged previous aesthetic conventions of bamboo art by experimenting with nonfunctional, sculptural forms, and have pushed their medium to new levels of concept and technique.

The pieces in the exhibition range from the mid-1960s to 2010, with most made during the last ten years. All but one of the artists still actively design and create new artworks, and many of the pieces have never been seen before in the United States.

Bamboo art is a unique Japanese phenomenon. As early as the eighth and ninth centuries, bamboo objects were used in Buddhist rituals, tea ceremonies, and ikebana (Japanese flower arranging), and became important features of these traditions. Bamboo art has been less widely recognized than other Japanese decorative arts such as ceramics and lacquer, but it is actually a highly demanding medium that requires years of study under the tutelage of a bamboo master. Modern Twist brings the creativity, innovation, and expertise of these artists to the forefront of the international art world.

Photo above: UEMATSU Chikuyu, Moon Rise on Autumn Fields, 2007. Bamboo (nemagaridake), rattan, lacquer, Japanese washi paper, hemp.

和田三造  WADA Sanzō (1883-1967)「南風」 South Wind (1907)東京国立近代美術館 The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo油彩・キャンバス・Oil on canvas151.5 × 182.4cm

和田三造  WADA Sanzō (1883-1967)
「南風」 South Wind (1907)
東京国立近代美術館 The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo

油彩・キャンバス・Oil on canvas
151.5 × 182.4cm

Calder with Steel Fish, Roxbury, 1934.アレクサンダー・カルダー(1898-1976)  Photograph by James Thrall Soby.

Calder with Steel Fish, Roxbury, 1934.
アレクサンダー・カルダー(1898-1976)
 
Photograph by James Thrall Soby.

Cy Twombly, Problem II & III (1966)Museum of Modern Art, Frankfurt
One of my favorite artists, the idiosyncratic and always interesting Cy Twombly has passed away.  His wild and scribble-like drawings and paintings, almost always executed on a grand scale, still somehow always manage to maintain something personable and intimate about them, something that draws the viewer into his playfully warm world.  (The ability to create a warm and inviting work while just using scribbly, free, stridently non-representational—perhaps even anti-representational lines is itself quite a feat, rarely achieved by his abstract expressionist contemporaries.
This work, which I photographed just the other day at the Museum of Modern Art in Frankfurt, reminds me of the kind of simple image a young, learning child might draw on the great blackboards at school as he is learning about the wondrous shapes that make up the world.  The title, Problem, suggests exactly this sort of innocent query as some child (or childlike artist) attempts to solve a problem of shape, form, and line.
The New York Times ran this story about the death of Cy Twombly. 

Cy Twombly, whose spare childlike scribbles and poetic engagement with antiquity left him stubbornly out of step  with the movements of postwar American art even as he became one of the  era’s most important painters, died in Rome Tuesday. He was 83.
The cause was not immediately known, although Mr. Twombly had  suffered from cancer. His death was announced by the Gagosian Gallery,  which represents his work.
Michael Stravato for The New York TimesCy Twombly in 2005.
In a career that slyly subverted Abstract Expressionism, toyed  briefly with Minimalism, seemed barely to acknowledge Pop Art and  anticipated some of the concerns of Conceptualism, Mr. Twombly was a  divisive artist almost from the start. The curator Kirk Varnedoe, on the  occasion of a 1994 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, wrote  that his work was “influential among artists, discomfiting to many  critics and truculently difficult not just for a broad public, but for  sophisticated initiates of postwar art as well.” The critic Robert  Hughes called him “the Third Man, a shadowy figure, beside that vivid  duumvirate of his friends Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg.”
Mr. Twombly’s decision to settle permanently in southern Italy in  1957 as the art world shifted decisively in the other direction, from  Europe to New York, was only the most symbolic of his idiosyncrasies. He  avoided publicity throughout his life and mostly ignored his critics,  who questioned constantly whether his work deserved a place at the  forefront of 20th-century abstraction, though he lived long enough to  see it arrive there. It didn’t help that his paintings, because of their  surface complexity and whirlwinds of tiny detail – scratches, erasures,  drips, penciled fragments of Italian and classical verse amid scrawled  phalluses and buttocks – lost much of their power in reproduction.
But Mr. Twombly, a tall, rangy Virginian who once practiced drawing  in the dark to make his lines less purposeful, steadfastly followed his  own program and looked to his own muses: often literary ones like  Catullus, Rumi, Pound and Rilke. He seemed to welcome the privacy that  came with unpopularity.
“I had my freedom and that was nice,” he said in a rare interview,  with Nicholas Serota, the director of the Tate, before a 2008 survey of  his career at the Tate Modern.
The critical low point probably came after a 1964 exhibition at the  Leo Castelli Gallery in New York that was widely panned. The artist and  writer Donald Judd, who was hostile toward painting in general, was  especially damning even so, calling the show a fiasco. “There are a few  drips and splatters and an occasional pencil line,” he wrote in a  review. “There isn’t anything to these paintings.”
But by the 1980s, with the rise of neo-Expressionism, a generation of  younger artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat found inspiration in Mr.  Twombly’s skittery bathroom-graffiti scrawl. Coupled with rising  interest in European artists whose work shared unexpected ground with  Mr. Twombly’s, like that of Joseph Beuys, the new-found attention  brought him a kind of critical favor he had never enjoyed. And by the  next decade he was highly sought after not only by European museums and  collectors, who had discovered his work early on, but also by those back  in his homeland who had not known what to make of him two decades  before.
In 1989 the Philadelphia Museum of Art opened permanent rooms  dedicated to his monumental 10-painting cycle, “Fifty Days at Iliam,”  based on Alexander Pope’s translation of the “Iliad.” (Mr. Twombly said  that he had purposely misspelled “Ilium,” a Latin name for Troy, with an  “a,” to refer to Achilles.) That same year, Mr. Twombly’s work passed  the million-dollar mark at auction. In 1995 the Menil Collection in  Houston opened a new gallery dedicated to his work, designed by Renzo  Piano after a plan by Mr. Twombly himself. Despite this growing  acceptance, Mr. Varnedoe still felt it necessary to include an essay in  the Modern’s newsletter at the time of the retrospective, titled “Your  Kid Could Not Do This, and Other Reflections on Cy Twombly.”
In the only written statement that Mr. Twombly ever made about his  work, a short essay in an Italian art journal in 1957, he tried to make  clear that his intentions were not subversive but elementally human.  Each line he made, he said, was “the actual experience” of making the  line, adding: “It does not illustrate. It is the sensation of its own  realization.” Years later he described this more plainly. “It’s more  like I’m having an experience than making a picture.” The process stood  in stark contrast to the detached, effete image that often clung to Mr.  Twombly. After completing a work, in a kind of ecstatic state, it was as  if the painting existed and he barely did anymore: “I usually have to  go to bed for a couple of days.”

Cy Twombly, Problem II & III (1966)
Museum of Modern Art, Frankfurt

One of my favorite artists, the idiosyncratic and always interesting Cy Twombly has passed away.  His wild and scribble-like drawings and paintings, almost always executed on a grand scale, still somehow always manage to maintain something personable and intimate about them, something that draws the viewer into his playfully warm world.  (The ability to create a warm and inviting work while just using scribbly, free, stridently non-representational—perhaps even anti-representational lines is itself quite a feat, rarely achieved by his abstract expressionist contemporaries.

This work, which I photographed just the other day at the Museum of Modern Art in Frankfurt, reminds me of the kind of simple image a young, learning child might draw on the great blackboards at school as he is learning about the wondrous shapes that make up the world.  The title, Problem, suggests exactly this sort of innocent query as some child (or childlike artist) attempts to solve a problem of shape, form, and line.

The New York Times ran this story about the death of Cy Twombly. 

Cy Twombly, whose spare childlike scribbles and poetic engagement with antiquity left him stubbornly out of step with the movements of postwar American art even as he became one of the era’s most important painters, died in Rome Tuesday. He was 83.

The cause was not immediately known, although Mr. Twombly had suffered from cancer. His death was announced by the Gagosian Gallery, which represents his work.

Cy Twombly in 2005.Michael Stravato for The New York TimesCy Twombly in 2005.

In a career that slyly subverted Abstract Expressionism, toyed briefly with Minimalism, seemed barely to acknowledge Pop Art and anticipated some of the concerns of Conceptualism, Mr. Twombly was a divisive artist almost from the start. The curator Kirk Varnedoe, on the occasion of a 1994 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, wrote that his work was “influential among artists, discomfiting to many critics and truculently difficult not just for a broad public, but for sophisticated initiates of postwar art as well.” The critic Robert Hughes called him “the Third Man, a shadowy figure, beside that vivid duumvirate of his friends Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg.”

Mr. Twombly’s decision to settle permanently in southern Italy in 1957 as the art world shifted decisively in the other direction, from Europe to New York, was only the most symbolic of his idiosyncrasies. He avoided publicity throughout his life and mostly ignored his critics, who questioned constantly whether his work deserved a place at the forefront of 20th-century abstraction, though he lived long enough to see it arrive there. It didn’t help that his paintings, because of their surface complexity and whirlwinds of tiny detail – scratches, erasures, drips, penciled fragments of Italian and classical verse amid scrawled phalluses and buttocks – lost much of their power in reproduction.

But Mr. Twombly, a tall, rangy Virginian who once practiced drawing in the dark to make his lines less purposeful, steadfastly followed his own program and looked to his own muses: often literary ones like Catullus, Rumi, Pound and Rilke. He seemed to welcome the privacy that came with unpopularity.

“I had my freedom and that was nice,” he said in a rare interview, with Nicholas Serota, the director of the Tate, before a 2008 survey of his career at the Tate Modern.

The critical low point probably came after a 1964 exhibition at the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York that was widely panned. The artist and writer Donald Judd, who was hostile toward painting in general, was especially damning even so, calling the show a fiasco. “There are a few drips and splatters and an occasional pencil line,” he wrote in a review. “There isn’t anything to these paintings.”

But by the 1980s, with the rise of neo-Expressionism, a generation of younger artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat found inspiration in Mr. Twombly’s skittery bathroom-graffiti scrawl. Coupled with rising interest in European artists whose work shared unexpected ground with Mr. Twombly’s, like that of Joseph Beuys, the new-found attention brought him a kind of critical favor he had never enjoyed. And by the next decade he was highly sought after not only by European museums and collectors, who had discovered his work early on, but also by those back in his homeland who had not known what to make of him two decades before.

In 1989 the Philadelphia Museum of Art opened permanent rooms dedicated to his monumental 10-painting cycle, “Fifty Days at Iliam,” based on Alexander Pope’s translation of the “Iliad.” (Mr. Twombly said that he had purposely misspelled “Ilium,” a Latin name for Troy, with an “a,” to refer to Achilles.) That same year, Mr. Twombly’s work passed the million-dollar mark at auction. In 1995 the Menil Collection in Houston opened a new gallery dedicated to his work, designed by Renzo Piano after a plan by Mr. Twombly himself. Despite this growing acceptance, Mr. Varnedoe still felt it necessary to include an essay in the Modern’s newsletter at the time of the retrospective, titled “Your Kid Could Not Do This, and Other Reflections on Cy Twombly.”

In the only written statement that Mr. Twombly ever made about his work, a short essay in an Italian art journal in 1957, he tried to make clear that his intentions were not subversive but elementally human. Each line he made, he said, was “the actual experience” of making the line, adding: “It does not illustrate. It is the sensation of its own realization.” Years later he described this more plainly. “It’s more like I’m having an experience than making a picture.” The process stood in stark contrast to the detached, effete image that often clung to Mr. Twombly. After completing a work, in a kind of ecstatic state, it was as if the painting existed and he barely did anymore: “I usually have to go to bed for a couple of days.”

Japanese design, 1920s-1930sCover image in need of a bookOriginally posted by fiveoclockbot

Japanese design, 1920s-1930s
Cover image in need of a book
Originally posted by fiveoclockbot

When making a quick visit to Kamakura the other day to meet a friend, we took in the TSUJI Shindō 辻晉堂 exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art in Kamakura.  The retrospective of this creative sculptor was full of bold, inventive, masculine, and often strikingly playful forms.
The Japan Times had this article about this wonderful show. 
Friday, Feb. 11, 2011
Shindo Tsuji: From the trees to the earth
By C.B. LIDDELL Special to The Japan Times
In 1948, the respected Zen elder Ian Kishizawa told the  sculptor Shindo Tsuji, “Forget whatever you can and express whatever  remains.” Despite its enigmatic and paradoxical quality, this typically  Zen-like admonition nevertheless manages to sum up the career of Tsuji  (1910-1981), an important Japanese sculptor whose centenary is being  celebrated by a major retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art,  Kamakura.
"Han-Shan" (1958) by Shindo Tsuji  COURTESY OF TOTTORI PREFECTURAL MUSEUM
Tsuji’s early career is the familiar tale of a young  provincial coming to sup at the fountain of metropolitan sophistication  and seeking to make a name for himself by acquiring the expected styles  and techniques. After moving to Tokyo from his home village in Tottori  Prefecture in 1931, he studied Western-style painting at the Independent  Institute of Art, before switching to sculpture, for which his main  influence was the naturalism of French sculptor Auguste Rodin.
Working in wood, early works, such as “Summer Morning —  Master Denchu Hirakushi Aged Seventy” (1941) and “Poet — Study for  Yakamochi Otomo” (1942), won praise for their realism, despite the fact  that the statue of Otomo looks very different from how we would imagine  the Nara period (710-794) poet to have been. By this time, Tsuji was  exhibiting his work as a member of the Japan Art Institute Exhibition.
Having learned much, the rest of his career, in  accordance with the instruction given by Kishizawa, was a kind of  forgetting. This journey led him to greater expressiveness as well as a  more profound interaction with his materials. A key event in this  respect was moving to Kyoto, where in 1949 he took up a teaching post at  the Kyoto City School of Art (today’s Kyoto City University of Arts).  At that time, even in the center of Kyoto you could find kilns turning  out pottery. To someone like Tsuji, who had already sculpted in wood,  plaster, and bronze, it seemed only natural to turn to ceramics as a  medium of expression.
There is something anthropomorphic about wood. It seems  to cry out to be carved into humanlike figures, as is evident in  Tsuji’s work. But clay is a different matter. With ceramics Tsuji’s  sculpture was able to take a more abstract route, and his work provided  inspiration to avant-garde ceramicists, such as Kazuo Yagi and the  Sodeisha group, who wanted to escape from functionality and treat their  works as pure objets d’art.
Working with clay freed Tsuji from what he had known  before. He responded to the qualities of the new material with a sense  of discovery and originality. Rather than working from models, as he had  done when sculpting in wood, he used his own internalized concepts as  points of departure for increasingly abstract pieces. While “Cat” (1956)  is still recognizable as a cat, “Head of Cat” (1956) is not. It is only  after reading the name plate that we perceive, with a sudden  pleasurable jolt, the sculpture’s feline essence. Tsuji’s ceramic  sculptures from this period represent the acme of his art, something  that was recognized when he was selected to represent Japan at the 1958  Venice Biennale.
His work also shows a noticeable tendency toward  chunky, blocklike sculptures, such as “Man Sitting on a Chair” (1957)  and “Mountain Man” (1957). These have an architectural feel, looking  like the kind of buildings you might find on some alien world. As a  devout Zen Buddhist himself — he had become a priest in 1938 — some of  the ideas that spurred such abstract pieces were from Buddhist  traditions. For example, one of the works shown at the Venice Biennale,  the bulky-looking “Han-shan” (1958), was inspired by the 9th-century  Chinese poet Han-Shan, revered in Zen Buddhism as an incarnation of the  Bodhisattva Manjusri.
Despite their abstract style, these works retain a hint  of the figurative, something that helps to unlock them for most  viewers. However, Tsuji yearned for greater esotericism. In his  subsequent career he produced pieces that moved toward greater  abstraction through their flatness. Looking like pieces of wall removed  from some adobe desert village, these works combine warm textures with  reticent formal qualities. Somewhat limited as works of art, they seem  more conducive to states of Zen meditation, perhaps expressing whatever  remained after a lifetime of forgetting.
"Tsuji Shindo: A Retrospective" at The Museum of Modern  Art, Kamakura, runs till March 27; admission ¥800; open 9:30 a.m.-5  p.m., closed Mon. For more information, visit www.moma.pref.kanagawa.jp

When making a quick visit to Kamakura the other day to meet a friend, we took in the TSUJI Shindō 辻晉堂 exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art in Kamakura.  The retrospective of this creative sculptor was full of bold, inventive, masculine, and often strikingly playful forms.

The Japan Times had this article about this wonderful show. 

Friday, Feb. 11, 2011

Shindo Tsuji: From the trees to the earth

By C.B. LIDDELL Special to The Japan Times

In 1948, the respected Zen elder Ian Kishizawa told the sculptor Shindo Tsuji, “Forget whatever you can and express whatever remains.” Despite its enigmatic and paradoxical quality, this typically Zen-like admonition nevertheless manages to sum up the career of Tsuji (1910-1981), an important Japanese sculptor whose centenary is being celebrated by a major retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura.

News photo

"Han-Shan" (1958) by Shindo Tsuji COURTESY OF TOTTORI PREFECTURAL MUSEUM

Tsuji’s early career is the familiar tale of a young provincial coming to sup at the fountain of metropolitan sophistication and seeking to make a name for himself by acquiring the expected styles and techniques. After moving to Tokyo from his home village in Tottori Prefecture in 1931, he studied Western-style painting at the Independent Institute of Art, before switching to sculpture, for which his main influence was the naturalism of French sculptor Auguste Rodin.

Working in wood, early works, such as “Summer Morning — Master Denchu Hirakushi Aged Seventy” (1941) and “Poet — Study for Yakamochi Otomo” (1942), won praise for their realism, despite the fact that the statue of Otomo looks very different from how we would imagine the Nara period (710-794) poet to have been. By this time, Tsuji was exhibiting his work as a member of the Japan Art Institute Exhibition.

Having learned much, the rest of his career, in accordance with the instruction given by Kishizawa, was a kind of forgetting. This journey led him to greater expressiveness as well as a more profound interaction with his materials. A key event in this respect was moving to Kyoto, where in 1949 he took up a teaching post at the Kyoto City School of Art (today’s Kyoto City University of Arts). At that time, even in the center of Kyoto you could find kilns turning out pottery. To someone like Tsuji, who had already sculpted in wood, plaster, and bronze, it seemed only natural to turn to ceramics as a medium of expression.

There is something anthropomorphic about wood. It seems to cry out to be carved into humanlike figures, as is evident in Tsuji’s work. But clay is a different matter. With ceramics Tsuji’s sculpture was able to take a more abstract route, and his work provided inspiration to avant-garde ceramicists, such as Kazuo Yagi and the Sodeisha group, who wanted to escape from functionality and treat their works as pure objets d’art.

Working with clay freed Tsuji from what he had known before. He responded to the qualities of the new material with a sense of discovery and originality. Rather than working from models, as he had done when sculpting in wood, he used his own internalized concepts as points of departure for increasingly abstract pieces. While “Cat” (1956) is still recognizable as a cat, “Head of Cat” (1956) is not. It is only after reading the name plate that we perceive, with a sudden pleasurable jolt, the sculpture’s feline essence. Tsuji’s ceramic sculptures from this period represent the acme of his art, something that was recognized when he was selected to represent Japan at the 1958 Venice Biennale.

His work also shows a noticeable tendency toward chunky, blocklike sculptures, such as “Man Sitting on a Chair” (1957) and “Mountain Man” (1957). These have an architectural feel, looking like the kind of buildings you might find on some alien world. As a devout Zen Buddhist himself — he had become a priest in 1938 — some of the ideas that spurred such abstract pieces were from Buddhist traditions. For example, one of the works shown at the Venice Biennale, the bulky-looking “Han-shan” (1958), was inspired by the 9th-century Chinese poet Han-Shan, revered in Zen Buddhism as an incarnation of the Bodhisattva Manjusri.

Despite their abstract style, these works retain a hint of the figurative, something that helps to unlock them for most viewers. However, Tsuji yearned for greater esotericism. In his subsequent career he produced pieces that moved toward greater abstraction through their flatness. Looking like pieces of wall removed from some adobe desert village, these works combine warm textures with reticent formal qualities. Somewhat limited as works of art, they seem more conducive to states of Zen meditation, perhaps expressing whatever remained after a lifetime of forgetting.

"Tsuji Shindo: A Retrospective" at The Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura, runs till March 27; admission ¥800; open 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m., closed Mon. For more information, visit www.moma.pref.kanagawa.jp