In celebration of September Asia Week New York 2016 and the 10-year anniversary of Onishi Gallery, we are honored to present a landmark exhibition, “Kōgei: Contemporary Japanese Art.” Even more than a display of the exquisite artistry of over 30 Japanese contemporary artists, this exhibition introduces into the international art market “Kōgei”—a category of art object translated from Japanese as ‘Art Crafts.’ This category of “Art Crafts” has specific qualifications, and refers to a class of artistic creations produced with advanced technical skill and refined design aesthetics. Japanese artists develop Kōgei in close association with the needs and conditions of everyday life in cities and prefectures throughout Japan, drawing upon local aesthetics and regional materials to reflect diverse social, cultural, and physical environments. Kōgei was exhibited for the first time in an art exhibition outside of Japan in 2007 by the British Museum, followed by an exhibition at the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in 2013, and most recently at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York in 2015. Building on this momentum, Onishi Gallery is now proud to present the beautiful form and rich history of Kōgei for the first time to the American public and the international art market here in the heart of the art world in New York City.
Japanese history is characterized by the integration of artistic and cultural traditions, and this Asia Week 2016 exhibition exemplifies how Japanese material and ritual cultures have merged in artistic expression, specifically in the remarkable works of Kōgei. Objects in this exhibition, such as Japanese tea ceremony pieces, teacups, water jars, and flower vases, demonstrate the functionality and fluidity of Kōgei forms, specialized designs for vernacular life customs. In addition to these sculptural pieces, this exhibition features modern, radical calligraphic works that illustrate in two dimensions the same commitment to bridging the abstract with the functional. Thirty-three artists who define the Kōgei art scene in Japan today through their work in ceramics, metalwork, lacquer work, glass, and calligraphy are featured in this exhibition. Of special inclusion are 13 “Living National Treasures”—artists honored by the Japanese government as holders of “Important Cultural Property” who carry social histories and cultural traditions of the past into the present through their traditional creative practices. Drawing upon both Western and Japanese creative elements in their work, this esteemed core of artists and the younger generation that challenges them through innovative design, together, redefine the Kōgei tradition through a diverse demonstration of Japanese contemporary art.
Among the dozens of rare talents showcased in this exhibition are four uniquely inspired artists: Imaizumi Imaemon XIV, Osumi Yukie, Tokuda Yasokichi IV, and Yu-ichi Inoue. Imaizumi Imaemon XIV was designated the youngest Living National Treasure in Japanese history in 2014 for his work in contemporary Nabeshima porcelain ware. Using a signature and historic design technique that involves an underglaze painting that disappears entirely after firing but for a pattern of white lines, his work reinvigorates Edo-period aesthetics with a contemporary eye for design. Osumi Yukie, designated the first female Living National Treasure in Kōgei in Japanese history in 2015, is known for her mastery of hand-raised silver vessels decorated with a specialized inlay technique similar to damascene. Tokuda Yasokichi IV, daughter of the famous Kutani porcelain artist and Living National Treasure Tokuda Yasokichi III, is a pioneering woman as a female artist to succeed the head of a traditional pottery family and ceramic dynasty. And Yu-ichi Inoue, hailed as one of the foremost post-war artists for his radical redefinition of traditional Japanese characters, re-envisioned the conservative script through full-body “action painting” that breathed abstract expression into functional form. These artists are only four of the incredible creative visionaries featured in this exhibition who are reshaping the form and function of Kōgei for the future.
This is the fourth year that Onishi Gallery is participating in Asia Week New York. For more information on our September Asia Week exhibition, please contact Nana Onishi at 212-695-8035, or by email at [email protected]. Or, please visit the gallery website at www.onishigallery.com.