Image: Worktable with drawers (detail), unidentified maker, 20th century, Japan, wood, colored lacquer, metal, Private collection

On View

Oct 29, 2016 - Apr 30, 2017

Curated By

Kendall Brown

A never before seen in-depth look at a group of tools for the traditional craft of Japanese lacquer-making.

The tools of Japanese lacquer makers are implements of prolonged use and objects of remarkable beauty. These humble, functional boards, bowls, buckets, shelves, and drawers were used to produce lacquer and in that process they became aesthetic objects. In their myriad colorful drips and accumulated layers of viscous texture, they record the countless lacquer objects created from them. Lacquer makers, aware of how intimately their tools reveal the physical properties of lacquer and trace the craftsman’s work habits, sometimes augmented those random results with deftly placed drips that transform those tools into a kind of artistic object. When their years of use were over, the objects might be polished to reveal buried layers of color. Such “interventions” stem from the craftsman’s creative curiosity and, in some cases, his desire to find buyers so that the tool may begin a second life as something to be collected. As process and product, device and object of desire, these hybrid articles tell us much about Japanese lacquer making and the relationship of craftsmen to their tools.