Japanese Artists Explore Cultural Legacy, Memory, and Tragedy During Asia Week New York 2016

February 21, 2016 Updated: February 25, 2016

NEW YORK—Asia Week New York kicks off March 10, where exhibitors will showcase the rarest and finest examples of painting, sculpture, bronzes, ceramics, jewelry, jade, textiles, prints, and photographs from all over Asia.

For Japanese art aficionados, the 10-day event presents opportunities to view the work of artists who have been named Living National Treasures.

“Asia Week is the most important showcase for us to introduce Japanese artists,” said Onishi Gallery owner Nana Onishi. Being one of only two galleries owned by Japanese in New York, she said. “It’s very important for us to be connected to international collectors and museum curators. There are 56 Living National Treasures in Japan and we carry 13 of them.”

According to Onishi, collectors are more interested than ever in contemporary Japanese, and Asian art.

The exhibition titled Kogei: Contemporary Japanese Art at Dalva Brothers features many rare talents including three uniquely inspired artists: Imaizumi Imaemon XIV, Osumi Yukie, and Tokuda Yasokichi IV.

Imaizumi Imaemon XIV, son of a Living National Treasure in ceramics, was designated the youngest Living National Treasure in Japanese history in 2014 for his work in contemporary Nabeshima porcelain ware.

In Japan, this is a designation for individuals certified as Preservers of Important Intangible Cultural Properties. They are individuals who have attained a high level of mastery in preserving a cultural aspect, like these art forms.

Last year, Osumi Yukie, was designated the first female Living National Treasure in “kogei” in Japanese history. She 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 former Living National Treasure Tokuda Yasokichi III, is a pioneering woman as a female artist to succeed as the head of a traditional pottery family and ceramic dynasty.

Kogei encapsulates a uniquely Japanese idea that the object is a kind of predetermined result of harnessing the nature of materials such as clay for ceramics and metals for metal works.

In Japan kogei (craft) refers to works made by both artists and artisans. The concept encapsulates a uniquely Japanese idea that the object is a kind of predetermined result of harnessing the nature of materials, such as clay in ceramics and metals in metal works.

Many of the works showcase the seamless way in which Japanese artists are able to integrate traditional technique handed down for generations into works that appeal to modern tastes.

The exhibition titled A Palette for Genius: Japanese Water Jars for the Tea Ceremony at Joan B. Mirviss is the place to see the most wide-ranging works on the theme.

The water jar is linked to the Japanese tea ceremony and, according to gallery registrar Damon Graham, “What is interesting about it is that there are almost unlimited interpretations that an artist can do in regard to creating a water jar, the only restrictions are really the scale and that it is to be a lidded vessel.” The exhibition explores an enormous range of water jars—ranging from really traditional works to much more contemporary interpretations.

One approach favors the elemental aesthetic, with rough textural elements resembling rocks, cliffs and earth. The traditional approach takes its cues from the classical Chinese style of tea ceramics brought to Japan during the Southern Song Dynasty. These water jars are covered in celadon glaze or feature Chinese black and cream designs that are typical of Cizhou ware.

The exhibition that comprises almost 50 works and includes Ono Hakuko’s (1915–1996) “Kinrande floral-patterned covered porcelain water jar,” from the artist who paved the way for Japanese women ceramists with her mastery of gold leaf on porcelain.

Coinciding with Asia Week 2016 is the photography exhibition In the Wake: Japanese Photographers Respond to 3/11 held at the Japan Society Gallery. It opens five years to the day of the triple disaster and features more than 90 works of art by 17 photographers revealing a great range of artistic responses to tragedy.