Hello! Fashion: Kansai Yamamoto, 1971 to 1973 at The Philadelphia Museum of Art

Flying Saucer Dress, Spring/summer 1994, (Designed by Issey Miyake, Japanese, born 1938). Polyester plain weave, Philadelphia Museum of Art; Gift of Issey Miyake.

PHILADELPHIA.- Kansai Yamamoto (born 1944), one of the founding fathers of Japanese contemporary fashion, is best known for his work of the 1970s and 1980s. Inspired by the colorful art of Japan’s Momoyama period (1568–1615) and traditional Kabuki theater, his exuberant designs contrast with the Zen-like simplicity and deconstructed silhouettes favored today by designers such as Yohji Yamamoto, Rei Kawakubo, and Issey Miyake.

Kansai opened his first boutique in Tokyo in 1968 and eventually expanded worldwide. His collections debuted in the United States in 1971 at Hess’s in Allentown, Pennsylvania, a department store known for its controversial fashion shows of American and European styles selected for their potential to influence ready-to-wear clothing designs. (Rudy Gernreich’s topless bathing suit was first modeled at Hess’s in 1964.) That same year Kansai became the first Japanese designer to show in London, where his clothing was seen by musician David Bowie; Bowie later commissioned Kansai to create the wardrobe for his Ziggy Stardust stage persona. The designer was again featured in Hess’s showing of Asian trendsetting fashions for fall/winter 1973 at One World Trade Center in New York. All of the Kansai ensembles on view in this gallery were modeled at the New York event; several were shown earlier in London.

Since his last collection for fall/winter 1992, Kansai has lent his name to licensed products ranging from eyeglasses to tableware. His fashion show spectaculars have become the framework for the grand Kansai Super Shows, the first of which was held in Moscow’s Red Square in 1993. Others held since in Japan, Vietnam, India, and Berlin have drawn audiences in the hundreds of thousands.

Kansai recently returned to fashion as a designer of traditional Japanese garments in a contemporary idiom including kimono (2004) and Hanten festival–inspired coats (2007). He continues to produce Super Shows as part of a larger initiative to invigorate the arts in Japan and serves as a government advisor on tourism and cultural affairs.


To the Beat of a Different Drum

Both visually stunning and amazingly educational, visitors to the Children's Japanese Art Festival didn't need a plane ticket to be transported to the far east last Friday night.

After a year long study of Japanese arts and culture students from Jefferson, Washington and Lincoln Elementary schools in Lindsay came together at Washington Elementary to show off their educational venture to Japan.

Art projects and painted lanterns were everywhere you looked. It seemed every child was dressed in a colorful Kimono and was enthusiastically ready to tell or show friends and relatives what they had learned.

The evening also included multiple special guests including the Director of the Japan Information Center at the Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco, Midori Yamamitsu, Japanese Koto player Mrs. Tokumoto, the Fresno Gumyo Taiko Drummers, Professor of Sculpture at COS Richard Flores, Japanese artist Hiroko Sakai and brush and ink artist Joy Harvey.

The school district focused on the study of Japanese art and culture as a follow up plan to the Japan Fulbright Memorial Teachers Program. The program started with hands on research and study for three weeks in Japan by Director of Professional Development in Art Education, Michelle Bussey.

Throughout the year Japanese art history, geography, haiku, brush and ink, raku ceramics, silk painting, block printing and scroll painting techniques have found their way into classrooms.

In addition, Bussey brought Japanese artists, Megumi and Hiroko Sakai to conduct professional development, classroom visits, and participate in the Family Literacy and Art Night event Feb. 27. Both we present again at the Children's Japanese Festival.


Meiji Art Techniques

Among the early Meiji artists who were studentsof Fontanesi was Asai Chu. Asai became an advanced painter, who later founded the Meiji Art School In his Kotaba Village, Asai had used the technique taught by Fontanesi of placing a tree in the center of the painting. The tree branches spread out, touching the edge of the canvas. Moving towards the foreground, we see that the artist used shading in tones of black and gray to create space. The dark black can be seen on the house at left. The gray tone is shone as spots on the ground that could either be shadows or the artist's attempt to show the roughness of the ground.
Other techniques can be seen in Mallard Still Life by Iwahashi. Here Iwahashi shows a duck hanging head down with one of its feet and wing tied together. Behind the duck is a wooden wall with the duck's shadow casting on it. Although in this painting the artist uses little modeling, there is evidence that Iwahashi used this technique. For example in the area between the body of the duck and the wing Iwahashi darkens it by using a light tone of black to create a sense of volume and shadow. The shadow of the duck casting on the wall is quite effective in creating a sense of space and three-dimensionality. The shadow itself consists of different shades of black. On careful observation, the outer edge of the shadow is a light grayish black that gets darker inside. Also notice the light reflecting on the duck's belly adding to the realistic appearance that Meiji artists want to achieve.

Meiji Art from the Khalili Collection Part 2

In this painting Van Gogh freely follows a print "The plum tree teahouse at Kameido (Kameido Umeyashiki)" by the Japanese print artist Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858). The teahouse at the Kameido shrine in Tokyo was famous for its plum tree blossoms and attracted many people. Van Gogh was probably fascinated by the contrast between the gnarled plum tree in the foreground and the visitors to the garden seen in the distance. He enlarged the image by tracing the original work and transferring it to canvas by means of a grid. By using starker colors and a style typical of his work from this period, the picture becomes more an interpretation of Hiroshige’s print than a real copy. The border contains a mixture of calligraphy taken from four other Japanese prints. The text has no coherent meaning, it is primarily decorative.

Meiji Art from the Khalili Collection

The artist Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) had a great regard for Japanese prints: ukiyoe colour woodcuts. Indeed, he wrote to his brother, Theo, that looking at them made him feel "much gayer and happier." Van Gogh's early paintings were predominately dark and sombre scenes of peasant life, but when he moved to Paris to live with Theo in 1886, he discovered how much he loved the delightful rich colors of Japanese prints. In his late Paris period Van Gogh admired this graphic art so much that he made three paintings in the style known as japonaiserie, based on prints of Keisai Eisen (1790-1848) and Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858) (Figs. 1 and 2). In 1888 he moved to Arles, from where, on 15 July, he wrote to Theo "All my work is based to some extent on Japanese art." Van Gogh's admiration for Japanese art became something of a religion for him. As he saw it, if modern art were to have a future, it must look toward, and indeed, be totally inspired by, the art of Japan. "For my part I don’t need Japanese pictures here, for I am always telling myself that here I am in Japan," he wrote from Arles. He observed everything around him as if it were "through Japanese eyes," and in this way noticed the tiniest details in the natural setting.
While living in Paris, Van Gogh had only collected Japanese graphic works. He admitted to being a collector of a minimal sort, not a large-scale buyer like the De Goncourt brothers. From Arles he wrote to Theo in 1888, saying that he seemed to have missed out on the fact that there 'was something else besides' the "ordinary print." However, this would not seem to be an entirely accurate report; possibly he was less interested in other genres, for he certainly must have seen other types of Japanese art. In the Parisian shops such as Siegfried Bing's where Japanese woodcuts were on sale, so too were oriental ceramics, enamels, metalwork, and lacquer. Japanese decorative art had designs and motifs encapsulating the emotions inspired by nature and the four seasons; themes that had a profound influence on Van Gogh.
While living in Antwerp Van Gogh had decorated his room with Japanese prints. When he came to Paris japonaiserie was all around in books and in magazines, and real works were in the houses of friends and in shops. Transferring such images into paintings gave Van Gogh the chance to study Japanese art and experiment with strong and contrasting colors. Figure 1 was based on a print Sudden shower on the Great Bridge near Atake (Ôhashi no yûdachi) by the celebrated ukiyo-e artist Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858). In it, people walking on a bridge in the rain cross the Sumida river on which, in the distance, a log raft is being poled. Vincent intensified the colors of the original work and added a border with random characters that he copied from prints like Hiroshige’s The Flowering Plum Tree.

Botanical Garden offers Asian experience with new presentation

The Cleveland Botanical Garden celebrates the tranquil beauty of a Japanese garden -- effusive with spirituality as well as flowers -- when it presents ''Zensai: The Horticulture of Japan'' through June 29.

The word ''Zensai'' means ''entry garden,'' but this spring show is much more. Visitors may take in the Cleveland garden's permanent Japanese Garden, which has been around since 1975, as a result of the work of members of Ikebana International, Cleveland Chapter 20.

Ikebana and Bonsai

There will be displays of arrangements at the Gardens in two classic styles: Ikebana and Bonsai. The centuries-old Ikebana is the ancient Japanese art of flower arranging that strives to convey the majesty and beauty of nature as well as its appeal to our spiritual yearnings. There is no one ''right'' school of Ikebana but all share some things in common. This style expresses the ideal of living in harmony with nature, a love of flowers and plants and a desire to want to arrange natural elements to show off their beauty.

Unlike the flower arrangements we see in Western shops, Ikebana relies on an asymmetrical composition that incorporates empty spaces (and the imagination's eye) as part of the form.

The leading schools of Ikebana (and in Japan) are Ikenobo -- the oldest, more than 500 years old -- and the most formal, Ohara, which values creativity and communion with nature.

The third, Sogetsu, sort of the new kid on the block at only 81 years old, values the individual arranger's view and celebrates a ''free-style'' view of the art.

Bonsai is an art more familiar to Ohioans who can find the tiny trees in florist shops and at trade fairs and flea markets. The art of Bonsai, brought over from China, is also ancient; in fact it came to Japan in the Ninth Century.

The art of Bonsai depends of shaping and pruning of trees and plants over many years to miniaturize them. Almost any tree can be turned into a Bonsai tree, but they are very high maintenance and can require regular fertilizing and watering several times per day.

Guided tours daily

For those who would like to learn more than just walking around can tell them, there will be 1 p.m. daily tours of the Garden during the Zensai show as well as 6 p.m. tours on Wednesday.

''At their core, Japanese gardens are the artistic expression of a culture,'' noted a garden spokesman. ''They're places where less is more, and in many respects, the missing element is often the most powerful. Through the subtle use of plants and hard features, the visitor is transported to a place that at first glance appears exotic, but in fact is closer to home than we think.

''The Cleveland Japanese garden was designed by David Slawson, whose work can be found throughout the United States. The garden has elements of three styles: the dry landscape style; the tea garden style and the stroll garden style.

Additional treats include ''The Japanese Garden: Photographs by Haruzo Ohashi.'' More than 100 photographs of beautiful gardens, waterfalls and walkways as rendered by Ohashi, a top Japanese garden photographer who spent 40 years taking pictures in historic gardens.

In this exhibition, Ohashi has arranged the six fundamental styles of Japanese gardens to coincide with Japanese history and the social changes it necessitated.

Those six styles are: the pleasure boat, the stroll, contemplation, many pleasures, the tea and courtyard styles.Subjects that might seem tame now, such as tea drinking, were radical and new when they first became popular.

The military actually popularized Zen Buddhism, a fact which seems odd to generations who think the notion of ''zen'' was to be cool and laid back.

His photos also show how the urban middle class changed the traditional pattern of gardening.

Ohashi's works are famous for using intricate photo techniques to achieve the greatest depth of field for his garden photographs.

The Botanical Gardens show will also exhibit fine art from the Verne Collection. Mitzie Verne, a Cleveland collector who once lived next door in Japan to the Emperor Hirohito's summer palace, has collected many works of art from Japan.

Among the items from the collection are Keisuke Serizawa prints. Serizawa has been declared a ''National Art Treasure'' by the Japanese government and his work has been exhibited in the Louvre, the Chicago Art Institute and the Museum of Fine Arts.
©The Morning Journal 2008


Hollywood 'Turning Japanese' With Anime Movies

Give Hollywood credit for really jumping on a cultural phenomenon the moment it arrives.
This time, the perpetually slow-moving movie biz power brokers are looking to adapt a crazy little Japanese thing called anime for the silver screen.

Before Speed Racer can even slam down the pedal "like he's never coming back," producers have several anime titles in the pipeline that had been available for development for some time, USA Today reports. In addition to the well-publicized 3-D Ghost in the Shell coming from Steven Spielberg, M. Night Shyamalan will find a way to insert a twist ending into The Last Airbender, an anime-inspired Nickelodeon series. And, Leonardo DiCaprio is looking to produce two films based on the benchmark anime masterpiece, Akira.

Of course, if Speed Racer eats the wall this weekend in its box-office battle with Iron Man, interest in these projects could cool.


Celebrating 50 years of art

Calgary Herald
Published: Sunday, May 04, 2008

What: An evening with Takao Tanabe

The Glenbow Museum gave Canadian art lovers a special treat when it invited Calgarians to join in welcoming one of Canada's most important figures in painting for more than 50 years.

More than 100 people gathered on the second floor lobby of the Glenbow to hear renowned artist Takao Tanabe speak about his work over the past half-century and tell decades-old stories about being an artist.Following his public presentation Tanabe joined a private reception in the Morris Shumiatcher room on the Glenbow's third floor.

Long associated with art and Alberta, Tanabe's work hangs in public art collections across the country, including the Glenbow.

Other public collections in which his work has been shown include the National Gallery of Canada, Vancouver Art Gallery, Canada Council Art Bank, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Art Gallery of Ontario, and the Tate Museum in the United Kingdom. Born in British Columbia in 1926, Tanabe has studied painting and art around the world in Europe, the United States and Japan.

During the 1970s he was the artist in residence and head of the Banff Centre's art program. He currently lives and works in B.C.

In 2005 the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria and the Vancouver Art Gallery organized a Takao Tanabe retrospective, which toured nationally.