San Diego visit, part 2: Japanese art at the Mingei International

Continuing the San Diego theme from my last post on Brush and Ink, I want to highlight an exhibition I saw at the Mingei International Museum, showcasing folk art and craft objects from Japan. It was a rare opportunity to explore this field in depth, and I was blown away by the bold designs and exceptional quality of the pieces.

The selection covers different regions of Japan and different categories of object: fans, folk paintings, baskets, cabinets and so on. The textiles displayed on the walls have huge visual impact, be it an Ainu coat from Hokkaido, or a summer kimono in a wonderful gold colour, by Keisuke Serizawa (1895-1984).

Ceramics form the backbone of the exhibition, encompassing older traditional items - a sturdy plate with horse eye motif, such as you would find at a roadside inn - and later craft pieces from the ceramicists of the Mingei movement, started by Yanagi Soetsu (1889-1961) to champion the beauty of ordinary, handmade objects.

They include works by Masu Minagawa (1872-1953), who liked to paint her teapots with landscape designs, and by Shoji Hamada (1894-1978) and his apprentice Tatsuzo Shimaoka (1919-2007), who used rope impressions and a salt glaze to create unique effects. All three worked at Mashiko in Japan.

A beautiful, balanced show, designed to give the visitor a strong and lasting sense of the riches of Japanese folk art.

Mingei of Japan
Mingei International Museum, San Diego, CA
2 April to 2 October 2016 (now closed)

Below: Ainu coat, unknown maker, late 19th c. Hokkaido, Japan. Cotton, indigo; hand-spun, handwoven, sewn, appliqued, embroidered. Mingei International Museum. All photos: SF.

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Below: Keisuke Serizawa, summer kimono, mid 20th c. Japan. Banana fibre (bashofu); indigo; hand-spun, handwoven, stencil dyed (katazome).

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Below: Plate with horse eye motif, unknown maker, early 19th c. Japan. Glazed stoneware with brushwork design. Mingei International Museum.

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Below: Bowl, unknown maker, 20th c. Okinawa, Japan. Glazed stoneware. Mingei International Museum.

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Below: Tea bowl, unknown maker. Mingei International Museum.

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Below: Masu Minegawa, ceramic teapot, ca. 1900-1950. Mashiko, Japan. Mingei International Museum.

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Below left: Lidded jar, unknown maker, late 20th c. Onta, Japan. Chatter-glazed (tobikanna) stoneware. Mingei International Museum.

Below right: Tatsuzo Shimaoka, bowl, 2004. Mashiko, Japan. Salt-glazed and rope-impressed stoneware with inlaid slip. Mingei International Museum.

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Below: Tatsuzo Shimaoka, tea bowl, ca. 1971. Salt-glazed and rope-impressed stoneware with inlaid slip. Mingei International Museum.

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Below: Shoji Hamada, plate, 20th c. Glazed stoneware. Mingei International Museum.

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Below: Shoji Hamada, cup, 20th c. Glazed stoneware. Mingei International Museum.

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