Sunday, December 28, 2008

21st exhibit: JAPAN-O-RAMA curated by Leika Akiyama

An Exhibition in All Media Featuring 19 Nationwide Artists. Exhibition Dates: May 1 - 29, 2004. Gallery Talk & Reception: May 15, 2004, from 3-6pm. On View SATURDAYS: May 1, 15, 22 + 29, 12noon - 5pm.

Image: Work by Joanne Kaliontzis, Boston, MA.

Are the big oversized girlie eyes in Japanese animation giving you night sweats and manifesting themselves in your paintings? Are you fascinated with Japanese packaging materials? Do you use them in your work? Perhaps you're entranced by the transcendental Zen art/culture of the rustic tea sipping, haiku reciting, island people?

Image: Photograph by Todd Fairchild.

artSPACE@16 is honored to announce its 21st exhibition; JAPAN-O-RAMA, curated by Leika Akiyama. The art work displayed include: paintings, drawings, photography, sculptures and mixed media works. The theme, JAPAN-O-RAMA, encompasses everything from Japonisme to Hello Kitty. The show takes a look at the influence that Japanese iconography has had upon everything from pop culture to traditional Japanese art to contemporary art. From the glittery, neon- filled, chaotic chic of the Tokyo vibe to its subdued Zen minimalist, hyperindustrial architecture and design, the Japanese vision and creative nuances have quietly infiltrated the eyes of western artists and design aficionados throughout the world. This show features work by artists who are inspired by past and present Japanese imagery. JAPAN-O-RAMA is essentially an investigation into the cross-pollination of east /west imagery in contemporary art. Guest curator Leika Akiyama has selected 19 visual artists whose work reflect this concept.

Featuring 19 nation-wide artists:

1. Leika Akiyama, Cambridge, MA
2. Elaine Bay, Somerville, MA
3. Martin Bromirski, Richmond, VA
4. Scott M. Cipolla, South Boston, MA
5. Cathleen Daley, Weston, MA
6. Todd Fairchild, Boston, MA
7. David Fallon, Quincy, MA
8. Sachiko Furui, Winchester, MA
9. Matt Hutton, Portland, ME
10. James Jack, Wenham, MA
11. Tsunami Jones, So. Boston, MA
12. Joanne Kaliontzis, Boston, MA
13. Tim Murley, Brookline, MA
14. Toru Nakanishi, Somerville, MA
15. John P. Rodzvilla, Jamaica Plain, MA
16. Gordon Sasaki, New York, NY
17. Corinne Okada Takara, Cupertino, CA
18. Kathleen Volp, Concord, MA
19. Kai G. Vlahos, Lawrence, MA

Image: work by guest curator Leika Akiyama, Cambridge, MA.


From Japonisme to Hello Kitty - A look at Japanese cultural influence on Contemporary Western Art.
A Curator Statement by Leika Akiyama

Image: Work by Kai G. Vlahos, Lawrence, MA.

Ever since Japan opened its portals to the Western world in 1854, the effects of the encounter of Far Eastern and Western art has had an enduring legacy that is still alive in today's world of contemporary art. Simplicity and decadence, super modern architecture next to a 300 year old Shinto shrine, the land of the rising sun has also been viewed as the land of contradiction and duality.

Starting with Felix Bracqmond, an artist and a graphic designer, who first discovered Hokusai’s woodcut sketchbook series ‘Manga’ in 1856, an array of Western artists such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Gauguin, Van Goh, to name a few, eagerly began to study Japanese art and were seduced and mesmerized by the naturalistic forces of the Japanese aesthetic principles. This cultural pollination of Far Eastern and Western art gave rise to Japonisme, where western artists incorporated elements of Japanese aesthetics into their own art thus liberating themselves from their own traditional western style of training.

Image: work by Gordon Sasaki.

Fast forwarding to the 20th century, Japan was experiencing extreme modernization and westernization especially during its economic resurgence in the 1960’s and the 1970’s. Japan became known for its cheap cars and plastic knick knacks, which coined the phrase ‘Made In Japan’ as a symbol of kitschy, not very well made plastic things. During this time students who graduated from prestigious Japanese art schools went to look for jobs as ‘professionals’ and found themselves becoming pioneers in a new genre of art which was the field of animation. At first trying to mimic those of Disney animations, Japanese artists began to incorporate their own unique visions and began to create an original world of Japanese animation which we have come to know as Japanese anime.

Image: work by John Rodzvilla, Jamaica Plain, MA.

Early black and white animations were filled with incredibly complex story lines with giant robots and super heroes. Also it was during this time that Ultraman series was born and together with his nemesis Godzilla, revolutionized the rubber suit wearing super hero TV genre of the 1970’s. Then in 1976, a cute gigantic white headed cat named Kitty-chan, or Hello Kitty was born. These icons of Japanese pop culture together with glossy Japanese packaging designs and candy wrappers began to infiltrate the minds and aesthetics of artists in the contemporary art world of today. Could this have been the second Japonisme?

Image: Work by Matt Hutton.

The works represented in this show is indeed a panoramic view of this type of Japanese cultural and aesthetic influences seen from one end of the spectrum to the other. On one end we see artists such as Matt Hutton utilizing traditional methods of Japanese carpentry and materials such as shoji (rice paper sliding doors) and wheat barricades in creating sculptures reminiscent of Japanese furniture and architecture. Kai Vlahos’ work is a representation of pure Japanese Zen meditative thought expressed in simple field of red color on white rice paper. The subtle nuances of stillness and boldness is incorporated into a single red dot, which also has resemblance to the Japanese flag. Cathy Daly’s quiet contemplation of nature, depicted in rich tones of grays and umbers reflect Buddhist like meditative reflection of the field of rye grass which is her subject matter. In her paintings we see her brush strokes becoming one with nature as she sees, experiences, and captures the immediacy and the fleetingness of the moment.

Tsunami Jones’ work is influenced by his fathers’ occupation as a U.S. Government topographer stationed in Osaka, Japan. His upright depiction of water and land mass reminds me of Nihonga paintings found on old Japanese sliding doors where western perspective falls to the wayside as the spatial distortion presents objects near and far on one single plane thereby manipulating the viewers gaze and sense of time.

Image: Work by David Fallon.

On the other spectrum we see artists such as Todd Fairchild, Kathleen Volp and David Fallon each in their own way incorporating Japanese pop cultural icons in their respective medias. Fairchild investigates the notion of inside and outside, his relationship to nature and the synthetic aspects of contemporary lifestyle as he photographs Hello kitty and Pokemon dashboard figurines placed inside peoples cars.

Volp juxtaposes Godzilla with a traditional Japanese masked dancing figure both taking a similarly animated pose. Fallon pays homage to old Japanese black and white animation by rendering Tetsujin 28-go (iron man 28-go), and Kimba the white lion, which later became the basis for the Disney movie The Lion King.

Image: Photograph by Toru Nakanishi

Toru Nakanishi chose instant ramen noodles as one of the pop icons from Japanese culture. By taking extreme close up shots of these dehydrated instant carbohydrate noodles Nakanishi has reintroduced this simple yet unassuming friend of the Japanese latchkey kids into the forefront of glossy high art.

Image: Work by Corrine Okada Takara.

I have also incorporated few works that depicts the sentiments of Japanese Americans, and their struggles in locating their ancestral heritage and their own identity in their art work. One such artist is Corrine Okada Takara who whimsically utilizes Japanese candy wrappers and wires and transforms them into beautiful elegant hats and shoes, reflecting the creative thriftiness which she learned from her fathers’ family deeply rooted in the Japanese Hawaiian plantation culture.

So in the end I hope the viewers will get a real panoramic view of the enduring Japanese cultural influence on western contemporary art as Hello Kitty sits side by side with Godzilla and Daruma the Buddhist monk in welcoming you to the bizarre world of Japan-O-Rama.


Image: Works by Kathleen Volp.

About the Guest Curator:

Leika Akiyama is an artist born and raised in Tokyo, Japan. She grew up in the 1970's when McDonald's and Seven Eleven first landed on the island country. She was there to witness the birth of her sacred icon Hello Kitty in 1976. As a result of living in the matrix of American and Japanese culture from an early age, she has suffered through a series of cultural identity crises from which she has not recovered from. Hence, this unique experience became an essential source of inspiration in creating her bizarre installations and "lunch box art". Leika is now living in the U.S. and holds a BFA from the Art Institute of Boston. After completing her postgraduate studies at Boston University's School of Visual Arts, she went on to pursue a Masters degree in Art Therapy and has since worked with adolescents and women with trauma. Although trained as a painter, her work encompasses both 2D and 3D work as well as installation based projects. Leika has shown her work in numerous group shows including: the Essex Arts Center, Salem State College, Cape Cod Community College, Merrimack College, Somerville Windows Project and the Somerville Museum. She has had a solo exhibition at the Artist's Foundation, and her work is slated to be included in a group show at Emmanuel College in the Spring of 2005.