Category — Art
all photos by flickr user kzsktt36 | click to enlarge
Kohei Nawa’s latest work, which headlined the Aichi Triennale in Nagoya, is a large-scale installation of billowing foam clouds. Nawa spent weeks experimenting with concoctions of detergent, glycerin and water so as to create a foam stiff enough to hold shape, thus creating his installation “Foam”. Visitors were allowed to walk through a gymnasium-sized space filled with ever-evolving foam shapes that, in Nawa’s own words, “should feel like [you’re] walking through clouds.”
Nawa (previously) has always been obsessed with materials, technology and manufacturing. But this latest work is a turn towards a more transient, shapeless installation. Actually, Nawa “is part of a new generation of artists whose work is helping to bring a more nuanced view of Japanese art and popular culture overseas,” writes Hiroko Tabuchi in a recent NYT feature. “One that moves beyond the cultural stereotypes of candy-cute manga and anime.”
“Maybe there was a time when artists benefited from, or used Japanese stereotypes in their work,” said Nawa. “But I think my generation no longer feels the need to identify with, or try to represent, Japan.”
November 1, 2013 Comments Off
“Nature shows us a beauty that exceeds our imagination,” says Tokujin Yoshioka. “The forms of nature are unique and cannot be reproduced. This endows them with mysterious beauty and makes them fascinating to us”.
As part of the Japanese designer’s large-scale one-man show at MOT in Tokyo, Yoshioka has installed a peculiar work he calls “a painting.” Looking much more like a bed of water than a painting, the piece is actually 6-months’ worth of crystal that have been growing, layer by layer, inside a glass tank. It’s truly a work of art that has been ceded to the hand of mother nature.
But the crystals haven’t just been sitting there quietly. Throughout the whole time they’ve been exposed to the music from Tchaikovsky’s ballet, Swan Lake. The tonal vibrations and pulsations materialize within the crystal, dictating its final form.
According to Phenom World, a Netherlands based manufacturer of electron microscopes and other high-tech imaging tools, “crystals exposed to music showed differences in size, form and structure of the surface. But what exactly about different frequencies and rhythm vibrations causes the change still remains a mystery.
“I believe that a design is not something that is completed through being given a form, but rather something that is completed by the human heart. I also feel that incorporating the principles and movements of nature into ideas will become something important in future design.”
October 23, 2013 10 Comments
Tagged as the “Japanese Banksy,” 281_Anti Nuke is 40-something contemporary artist who began making nuclear protest and anti-TEPCO stickers in the wake of the March 11th disaster. His imagery usually features children, the trefoil symbol for radiation, and a simple, direct message, like “I hate rain.”
As Halloween approaches, the active twitter user has been posting a new series of stickers featuring children in costume and other spooky images. “Stickers are better than graffiti,” he says, in an interview in the New Yorker, “because they are faster to apply. You just stick them on and run off.
October 22, 2013 Comments Off
Tokujin Yoshioka (previously) may very well turn out to be the Steve Jobs of Japanese design. In almost every public appearance he is seen in a black t-shirt and dark jeans. But the similarities extend beyond uniform. Everything he touches – paper, plastic, wood, glass – turns to gold. The industrial designer has a knack for turning unexpected materials into something minimally exquisite. “Maybe I just find hidden beauty in things which others have not noticed before me,” he once said. But true fans of Yoshioka’s should stop reading right now. “Once it is worded, I fear that the image disappears,” he also added.
In recent years the industrial designer has been experimenting with glass and crystal, combining small particles into something grand. At times his forms are carefully guided and constructed, such as the Rainbow Church, one of the centerpieces of his current retrospective going on at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (MOT). The spiritual piece is a 26-ft high glass window made of 500 crystal prisms. Yoshioka once explained that the piece was inspired by a trip to the Chapelle du Rosaire in France where Henri Matisse spent a great deal of his last remaining time on the stained glass windows.
But almost as if to counteract his own architectural forms, the designer, at times, likes to cede control to nature. Also on display is “Spider’s Thread Chair” constructed from seven fine threads. And while the structure of the chair is truly just thread, crystals have grown wild along the lines, allowing nature to give form to the poetic chair. In fact, the piece of furniture is inspired by the 1918 short story, “The Spider’s Thread,” by Ryunosuke Akutagawa.
Also on display is “Swan Lake,” a crystallized painting created by the vibration of music, “Rose,” a crystallized flower sculpture, and tornado, an immersive installation made from millions of plastic straws. That’s right – those things you get for free at McDonalds.
The exhibition runs through January 14, 2014.
source: press release
October 21, 2013 1 Comment
I was saddened to hear that Takashi Yanase, the creator of the beloved Anpanman character, passed away on Sunday. He was 94 years old. I used to watch it as a child and both my kids still watch it. He’s even made a couple appearances on the blog from time to time. For those who aren’t familiar, Anpanman is superhero whose face is made of a sweet bean bun. The self-sacrificial superhero goes around helping hungry children by giving them pieces of his face to eat. Stated differently, Anpanman’s good deeds, in turn, bring harm to himself. It’s an important underlying concept of the character – one that was born from Yanase’s military experience in the Sino-Japanese War and his encounters with hunger and starvation. Below are a few selected quotes from interviews Yanase gave.
“The idea of fighting for justice is an illusion. At any moment in time justice can reverse itself. It’s hard to believe in justice.”
“It’s incredibly difficult to perform good deeds without bringing harm to oneself.”
“Good deeds are not always rewarded. In fact, sometimes they leave scars.”
“No matter what country you are from, no matter where you stand, offering food to those who are hungry is a good deed. It is justice in the most absolute sense.”
Bonus: Last summer in Japan twitter users spotted a cloud in the sky curiously shaped like Anpanman. It’s now been reignited and is going viral in Japan.
Takashi Yanase – you’ll be missed.
(all quotes have been translated from Japanese to English by the author)
October 16, 2013 Comments Off
“Photographs bear witness to a human choice being exercised in a given situation,” wrote John Berger. “A photograph is a result of the photographer’s decision that it is worth recording that this particular event or this particular object has been seen.” With that same spirit, a new exhibition Tokyo 1970, presents you with a glimpse into the many choices being exercised by 9 photographers capturing Tokyo between 1965 – 1975.
Curated by Akio Nagasawa, a publisher and expert on post-war Japanese photography, the exhibition is unique in its ability to showcase an intimate side of Tokyo through its inhabitants, rather than cityscapes. “The city of Tokyo is so large and complex,” says* Nagasawa. “Depending on the time period, circumstances or cultural background, you could be standing in the exact same spot yet still see something completely different.”
Tokyo 1970 is on display through October 29, 2013. The show is located on the 9th floor of the Armani/ Ginza Tower.
*quote translated by author.
warning: nsfw image at the bottom of this post
October 11, 2013 Comments Off
It’s hard to discuss Japanese pop music (J-pop) without inducing yawns or eye-rolls. But there are several acts that demand recognition and one of those is the long-standing vocalist Yumi Matsutoya, better known as Yumin. The commercially successful artist has just released her 37th album with some fantastic cover art by art director Chie Morimoto (previously).
Each letter is its own stage set, meticulously hand-crafted and then photographed with Yumin interacting with them. After each shoot by photographer Leslie Kee, Yumin changed into a new costume created by stylist Hisashi Kitazawa. Working around the clock, the all-star photo shoot took an entire 24 hours, says Morimoto. The result is a series of brilliant typographic ecosystems.
Not that she needs it but Yumin is currently experiencing somewhat of a revival as one of her old songs “hikoki-gumo” was unearthed by the team at Ghibli and featured in Hayao Miyazaki’s latest (and last) film “The Wind Rises.” This new album – a mash-up of old hits – includes this song. Coincidentally, Chie Morimoto has also created all the posters and visuals for the upcoming Documentary on Hayao Miyazaki.
Source: chie morimoto
October 9, 2013 Comments Off
The reupholstered chairs of 32-year old Yukiko Nagai most certainly call for a 2nd look. But don’t sit. These delicate pieces mimic the look of traditional materials like wood grain, boar hide and patchwork using marble and glass tile. According to the artist, “Her concept consists in the interpretation of various materials using exclusively marmble and rocks, trying to surprise at the touch and look of the surface rendered in the work.”
Nagai makes use of her studies in landscape design, which she completed at the prestigious Tama Art University, to carefully render the mosaics of her work. She first gained recognition earlier this spring when famed Italian gallerist Rossana Orlandi decided to include her in her groundbreaking exhibition.
October 7, 2013 Comments Off
Happy 25th Birthday Anpanman | 10 things you probably didn’t know about Japan’s favorite breaded superhero
25 years ago today Anpanman began its original run on Nippon Television and is still going strong. Japan’s favorite breaded superhero, and his other anthropomorphized food friends, have been adored by generations of kids even beyond the borders of his home country. In a short homage to the caped sweet bean-paste bread, we bring you a list of things you probably never knew about Anpanman.
1. When Anpanman was first born he looked like this. He also announced his own name, effectively naming himself.
2. Sometimes the characters don’t use earmuffs correctly
3. Anpanman’s Arch nemesis Baikinman (literally, germ man) washes his hands
4. On several occasions Baikinman has tried to destroy Anpanman by tinkering with his ingredients. But his baker Jam-ojisan foils his plans by using different ingredients, which results in a different head.
5. The resemblance is uncanny
6. Anpanman’s nose is detachable
7. Anpanman airs in the Middle East. But during Ramadan all characters based on foods are censored.
8. Currypanman’s cooking techniques are a little revolting
9. Logarithmic spirals: the secret to Batako-san’s unrelentingly perfect throws
10. An interview with Takashi Yanase, the 94-year old creator of the show, revealed that the concept for the character – a superhero who helps hungry kids by letting them eat his face – came about from Yanase’s experience in post-war Japan when there major food shortages. He struggled with the contradictions of good/evil but there was one thing he knew for sure: if there was a superhero it would be someone who would save starving children from hunger.
October 3, 2013 3 Comments
Gravity-defying forms and morphing colors characterize the extravagant, otherworldly headdresses created by milliner and jeweler Maiko Takeda. The London-educated Tokyoite painstakingly assembles her hats – if you can call them hats – first by cutting out her pointy shapes and then attaching them piece by piece to a larger structure.
The final creation, for its chaotic beauty, has been likened to everything from Hellraiser to hedgehogs, porcupines and caterpillars.
“I want to create surreal, subtle dramas around the person wearing my piece and the people near them,” says Takeda, in an interview with mb. She goes on to explain how Philip Glass’s opera “Einstein on the Beach” inspired her latest collection titled Atmospheric Reentry: “ It is a very repetitive, non-stop physical work. The actors move like machines, but at the same time you can see them sweating and running out of breath. I found that very interesting to watch. I felt the strong power of young people who have nothing to lose when I saw it. It was the simplest form of expression. That really touched my heart.”
Takeda began touching hearts, and turning heads, this year when – just 2 weeks after her MFA show – Bjork chose to wear her pieces on her Biophilia tour, which just ended earlier this month. “I couldn’t believe it! …I wasn’t sure if it would be comfortable for her to sing in. I went to bed thinking she probably wouldn’t wear it in the end,” recalls Takeda. “In the morning I woke up to seeing pictures of Björk on the internet wearing my headpiece. That was the most rewarding moment for me.”
Here are some photos of Takeda assembling one of her headdresses.
September 30, 2013 2 Comments