Curated by Martha Longenecker, the exhibition was held in conjunction with the San Diego – Yokohama Sister City Society’s celebration of a visit to San Diego by Yokohama’s Mayor and the bi-national celebration of 150 years of relations between Japan and the United States of America. The exhibition was funded in part by the San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture and the County of San Diego Community Enhancement Program.
MINGEI OF JAPAN featured select objects from the Museum’s collection of more than 2500 works by known and unknown craftsmen from throughout Japan. The all-media exhibition included a broad diversity of historical and contemporary objects: tansu (chests), pottery, calligraphy, woodblock prints and paintings, stencil work, kimono and other textiles, lacquer, metal, handmade paper, baskets and toys.
Many objects were created by artists designated as National Treasures: potters Shôji Hamada and Tatsuzo Shimaoka and stencil artist Keisuke Serizawa. Also on view were works by printmaker and painter Shiko Munakata, recipient of the Imperial Order of Culture.
Mingei, a special word used throughout the world for “art of the people,” was coined by the Japanese scholar Dr. Soetsu Yanagi, who combined the Japanese words min (all people) andgei (art). Observing that many useful, pre-industrial objects made by unknown craftsmen were of a beauty seldom equaled by artists of modern societies, Yanagi realized that to balance the weight of increasing technology, there was a growing urgency for man to continue to make and use objects that express one’s whole being. Joined by potters Shôji Hamada and Kanjiro Kawai, Dr. Yanagi founded the Mingei Association of Japan to preserve the best of the past and to ensure the continuation of the craft traditions of Japan and the world.
A Mingei documentary videotape of the exhibition was funded by an anonymous foundation.
Shown in conjunction with MINGEI OF JAPAN was SUEO SERISAWA – Poetry in Painting, paintings and woodblock prints by this friend of the founders of the Mingei Association of Japan. A Members’ Reception with the artist and Mrs. Serisawa as honored guests was held on March 20.
Born in Yokohama in 1910, Mr. Serisawa’s family immigrated to Seattle in 1918 and, a few years, later moved to Long Beach, California. His first teacher was his father, Yoichi, who had studied at the Imperial Art Academy in Tokyo. After his father’s death in 1926, he studied with George Barker and at the Otis Art Institute, Los Angeles. During his 20s, Mr. Serisawa painted impressionist landscapes and portraits.
Leaving California in the early 1940s, he took his family to Colorado, then to Chicago where he studied at the Art Institute. From Chicago, he moved to New York in 1943, where he met artists Yasuo Kuniyoshi and Isamu Noguchi. There he was influenced by Abstract expressionism, and his work became more bold and expressive. He returned to Los Angeles in 1947 to teach at the Kahn Institute and at Scripps College, Claremont. He also taught at the University of Southern California and the Laguna Beach School of Art.
A trip to Japan in 1955 with fellow painter Millard Sheets inspired Mr. Serisawa to use his work as the medium to express his own philosophy inspired by Zen Buddhism and J. Krishnamurti’s teachings.
Calligraphic forms, gold and silver leaf and sumi paintings became his focus, and he blended oriental screen paintings with European Expressionism.
Widely exhibited, Mr. Serisawa has presented one-man shows and participated in exhibitions at numerous institutions including The Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Dayton Institute of Art, Dayton, Ohio; Dalzell Hatfield Gallery, Los Angeles; Laguna Beach Museum of Art; Pasadena Museum of Art; Corcoran Gallery; the Smithsonian Institution; Art Institute of Chicago; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; De Young Museum, San Francisco; Tokyo International Exhibit; Sao Paolo Biennale; and San Diego Museum of Art.
His works are in private collections and many public collections including those of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Santa Barbara Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Joslyn Museum, Omaha and the Museum of Modern Art, Eilat, Israel.
Shôji Hamada and Kanjiro Kawai
Hahn Family Foyer, Cornell Rotunda, Pardee Grand Plaza Gallery, Plaza Gallery, Warren Theater Gallery