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Japanese Art

Japanese Art

Koichi Yanagi Oriental Fine Arts

New York location

17 East 71st Street, 4th Floor
New York, NY 10021

Tel. (212) 744-5577

Asia Week Exhibition 2021

Kokon Biannual – Spring 2021

It is our sincere hope that this exhibition finds all of our friends, colleagues, and fellow art afficionados in good health. We wish you the best in this time of pandemic and look forward to meeting with you again in person in the not too distant future.

The display that opens the new year of 2021 offers a sharp contrast with the previous one: it focuses on the varied uses of a single medium – monochrome ink. The ancient Chinese, to whom Japanese artists, politicians, and clerics looked as models and mentors, asserted that black ink had in fact “many colors”, and that, therefore, black ink alone sufficed for painting. This Chinese credo was heartily embraced in Japan during the Muromachi period in the fifteenth century, and established firm principles for painters, especially artists of the influential Kano school. Two paintings by artists belonging to this school (nos. 1 and 2) – a pair of six-paneled folding screens Birds and Flowers of the Four Seasons and the hanging scroll Landscape – along with a third work (no. 3), created by a wayward Nanga artist of the Edo period in the late eighteenth century, pursued this principle in creating ink painting. While the two Kano artists worked to maintain orthodox Chinese-inspired ink painting techniques in creating their works, the late eighteenth-century painter, Yokoi Kinkoku (1761-1832), endeavored to create an approach to self-expression through the same medium. He demonstrated varied techniques in the handling of ink and brush, in order to create new, less “regimented” works.

One three-dimensional work of art presents the use of a single color, gold, against a black background, in a manner similar to that of a monochrome painting. In the sixteenth or early seventeenth century, a small object - the wooden core of a hand-held drum (no. 4) - was decorated with lacquer and gold maki-e that exhibits the dramatic design commonly referred to as “Bridge and Willows” or “Uji Bridge”, a canonical motif of the Momoyama period. This design, which was featured frequently on pairs of six-paneled folding screens, consisted of an arching golden bridge spanning a river edged by willow trees, beneath a gibbous or crescent moon. The dramatic motif, well-suited to a large-scale painting format, was “dismantled” by lacquer craftsmen, who used fragments of the composition to ornament the surface of small objects like this drum core, making a recognizable reference to the larger image.

Two ceramic pieces presented here reflect opposite ends of the pole with regard to Japanese taste: on one hand is a graceful work of ultra-refinement (no. 5) by the perfectionist Nonomura Ninsei (d. ca. 1694), and on the other (no. 6) we see a rough and almost crude representation of rain-spattered leaves made by anonymous Chinese artisans for the Japanese tea circle.

Our gallery will continue to pursue the goal of making works of art available to viewers by means of special exhibition, on a twice-yearly basis. Through these displays, we trust the objects in different media, from different periods, based on different themes, and by different artists, will continue to enchant and inspire our visitors with the beauty of Japanese art.