The phrase “Japanese art” usually sparks images of E-maki (picture scrolls), ukiyo-e woodblock prints, and ornate pottery.
Western culture generally celebrates two stereotyped styles of art: traditional Japanese techniques and Japanese manga. The Barrick Museum is currently playing host to an exhibit focused on Japanese art. “Passage to the Future” shifts the focus onto modern Japanese art, but also places a wedge between two words that have since becomes synonymous in Western minds: manga and modern.
The exhibit shows off the talents of Japan’s brightest modern artists. The exhibit showcases art that is mindful of the changing times. The featured artists take mundane objects and project their personal feelings, perceptions and realities on those objects.
A perfect example is the work of featured artist, Katsuhiro Saiki. Saiki, a photographic/mixed media artist, uses three-dimensional rectangular frames and cunning installations as way to give not only three dimensions to his photographs, but explore the gap between reality and the world that can only exist inside the photograph.
Mounted on the wall of the museum are two squares cut in two by a strikingly minimalistic white line. On closer inspection, the white line is actually a jet stream flipping the conventional notion of where art can be found.
Another artist, Miyuki Yokomizo, takes a mundane object and turns into the sublime.
By making acrylic molds of soap bars and hanging them inside shower curtains, Yokomizo creates an alluring space filled with the refracted color of light passing through the soap.
The most striking piece was unnamed at the time I went through. The piece is essentially an acrylic transparent box placed on a chest high pedestal. The box is filled with suspended coffee beans and balled-up newspaper. The viewer is invited to stand afar and gaze at the tiny galaxy inside the box, and see how meaningful objects destined for the trashbin have become.
While the museum is free to everybody, contributions are greatly appreciated so they can continue bringing exhibits like this to the university.
Photos by Adam Snow