Exhibition closes December 18, 2011
333 East 47th Street near First Avenue
Admission $12; students $10; free Friday nights 6-9 pm
Wooly, quilted, textured, crafty–these are all ideas that arise when one thinks of “fiber.” However, paired with the word “art,” the phrase “fiber art” evokes a whole different notion, and the current Japan Society Gallery exhibit, Fiber Futures: Japan’s Textile Pioneers, certainly manifests it. Moving beyond just craft or just design with textiles, the work displayed in this exhibit fuses both design and craft to create ethereal and beautiful pieces of art.
To the thirty Japanese artists featured in the show, fiber can be manipulated and crafted with traditional methods, but it no longer needs to exist in the traditional sense; fiber can be metal, painted magazine pages or polyphenylene sulfide film. In Kyoko Kumai’s Toki no katachi (The Shape of Time), the artist uses yarns which are sewn together to create bulbous oval spheres arranged so that it seems like the forms grew organically out of the ground. The interesting aspect of this work is that the so-called yarn is made of stainless steel, scaled so thin it could be mistaken for shiny string.
Another piece, A Wood III by Machiko Agano, uses inkjet printed images of leaves on mirror sheets. Hung from the ceiling and dangling in such a way that the fiber and texture of the paper creates a geometric forest-like environment, the work also makes the viewer aware of their place within the piece from the added phenomenon of the mirror paper reflection.
A work that encapsulates and reinforces both the tradition and innovation within Japanese fiber art is the show’s opening work, Flame-resistant shop curtain by Japan’s most treasured textile innovator, Jun’ichi Arai. Featuring a handsome gold and silvery overlay of aluminum on ultra-thin polyphenylene sulfide film and a circle design that is an obvious nod to the Japanese flag, the piece is a re-imagining of a traditional Japanese shop curtain in its design and function, using completely new and modern materials.
Image: Yasuko Iyanaga (1948- ). *Umi kara no okurimono: Air, X [A Gift from theSea: Air, X]*, 2010. Spun silk and wire; tie-dyeing. 51 1/8 × 51 1/8 × 195/8 in. (130 × 130 × 50 cm). Courtesy of the artist.