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Japanese Art Dealers Association to Hold Two Joint Exhibitions During New York City's Asia Week
Kawanabe Kyōsai, Gods Sumo wrestling (Jurojin and Daikoku as sumo wrestlers, Ebisu as a referee; detail).

NEW YORK, NY.- An exceptionally broad range of pre-modern Japanese art will go on view this March during New York City’s Asia Week in two exhibitions held by JADA, the Japanese Art Dealers Association.

The works of art range from a 12th century Buddhist sculpture to satirical ephemera of the 18th century and a four-foot tall model of pagoda once owned by New York railroad baron E. H. Harriman and later in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In addition, the exhibitions will present a complete suit of armor formerly in the collection of Japan’s leading Hokosawa clan (one of three works of art once in the possession of the millennia-old ruling family to be presented). Also in the exhibitions will be goldleaf screens, sculptures, prints, lacquers, and hanging scrolls that illustrate a reverence for nature as well as those that illuminate Japanese artists’ love of humor.

JADA 2010: An Exhibition by the Japanese Art Dealers Association
Among the earliest works in JADA 2010, an episodic survey of traditional Japanese art, is a Standing Jizō Bosatsu (Skt. Ksitigarbha), a wood sculpture that dates from the Heian period, 12th century. The delicate hands, facial features, and the shallow carving of the drapery mark this work as stylistically related to the work of Jōchō, whose famous image of the Buddha Amida is worshipped at the temple Byōdō’in near Kyoto. Jizō, a merciful protector of abandoned souls, appears again in a 16th or 17th century elaborate, intact traveling shrine. Decorated with a robe with cut gold, the figure holds both a crystal jewel and staff, Jizō stands on a lotus and cloud base within a shrine that features interior gilding.

JADA 2010 also contains armor, paintings, and lacquers from the collections of Japan’s samurai clans, the feudal elite that ruled the country from the 13th century into the modern era.

Kano Masunobu’s 17th century four-panel folding screens, Poetry Gathering in the Imperial Palace during the Kenpō Era, bear the crest of the Tokugawa clan, whose shognunate ruled from 1600 to 1867 and who employed Masunobu as an official painter. The screens are both highly accomplished works of art and an object of luxury created for a patron in the highest echelons of Edo-period society. They include copious amounts of gold leaf, which give the screens a shimmering glow, and bear exquisitely crafted metal attachments around their lacquer frames.

Also in the exhibition are three works of art that were once in the possession of the Hosokawa, a Japanese samurai clan descended from Emperor Seiwa (850-880) that is still influential in current day Japan: Morihiro Hosokawa, one of its descendants, served as Prime Minister of Japan in the 1990s. (In 2009, the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco organized Lords of the Samurai, an exhibition that was devoted exclusively to the Hosokawa family collection.)

JADA 2010 will present a complete and matching 18th century Hosokawa family armor with original storage boxes marked with its crest – with a unique helmet in the form of a lotus bud with a striking half moon helmet decoration and chest armor with silver inlays depicting waves. It is the most complete Hosokawa family armor to have reached the market in generations.

Other works with samurai provenance include Tani Buncho’s 19th century pair of hanging scrolls, Immortals of Water and Fire. They feature inscriptions by the high-ranking samurai, Sakai Hoitsu, an artist, friend of Buncho, and a member of the powerful Sakai clan that owned these paintings for generations. Buncho based his Immortals of Water and Fire is based on Fengshen Yanyi (The Creation of the Gods), an epic Chinese fantasy novel. While the Immortal of Water was original to the novel, Buncho invented the Immoral of Fire to present a counterpoint.

Among the highly decorative screens in the exhibition is Pine and Plum Trees, a 17th century Kano school six-panel screen in the style of Kano Eitoku and Kano Sansetu. Japanese artists frequently illustrated the four seasons, and the pine and plum trees, with red nandia and bamboo, illustrating winter and spring. Similarly, a 17th century pair of six-panel screens, Roosters and Chicken in a Bamboo Grove presents fowl by a bamboo grove in spring and autumn.

Also in the exhibition is an unsigned hanging scroll by Katsushika Hokusai, Courtesan with Lanterns, which also bears a poem by Santō Kyōden. Best known for his iconic print, The Great Wave off Kanagawa, Hokusai’s Courtesan with Lanterns depicts a high-ranking courtesan dressed in full regalia as she poses confidently on the main street of the Yoshiwara, the pleasure quarters on the outskirts of the city of Edo.

One of the most striking works in the exhibition is a four-foot tall model of a pagoda by Koyano Kijo and Koyano Masami from 1898. Fabricated from copper alloys, silver and gold, the pagoda – which took eleven years to create – is both an example of Meiji-period metalwork at its finest and a record of eighthcentury architecture. The model may represent a generic pagoda, but some think it is based on the famous wooden pagoda at the temple Kōfukuji, in Nara, which hadbeen the capital of Japan until 794 A.D. New York railroad baron E. H. Harriman and his wife, the philanthropist Mary Averell Harriman acquired the pagoda in Japan in 1906 and later loaned it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which received it as a gift from Mary Harriman’s estate. The museum later deaccessioned the model.

Humor in Japanese Art
While the traditional arts are often associated with Buddhism, a reverence of nature, and the decadence of the Floating World, Japanese artists have investigated the subject of humor for centuries. Humor in Japanese Art explores the subject in an exhibition of over 15 paintings, prints, and sculptures.

Otsu-e painting, a form of Japanese folk art, was created by unknown artists during the early Edo Period (1624-1644) in the town of Otsu, Shiga prefecture, where the works of art were commonly sold as souvenirs. Bathing demons were an easy mark for otsu-e painters such as Ki Baitei (1734 – 1810), who is represented in the exhibition with Demon Takes a Bath. In traditional Japanese lore, demons were foul, rank creatures, known for their repulsive appearance and odor. The idea of a demon cleansing his external self satirized both demons and people who were aware of their external appearance but oblivious to the corrupt state of their mind and spirit.

Kishi Beizan’s 19th century hanging ink-on-paper scroll, One Hundred Blind Men comes out of the genre known as giga-e, which translates as paintings done in jest. In the painting, 100 blind men, each having been jostled, break out into a brawl: none of them realize that the person who bumped into him is blind, also. The painting is a metaphor for the folly of making judgments based on incomplete knowledge. Seen in another light, it is a Buddhist allegory that suggests that the average person, not having pursued or achieved enlightenment, lives and acts blindly.

Humor in Japanese Art also reveals a subversive sensibility. Utagawa Kuniyoshi’s 19th century color woodblock triptych, Turtle Fun, Wonderful, Wonderful skirted a governmental ban on portraits of actors, who were considered detrimental to public morals. Kuniyoshi grafted the faces of prominent actors onto turtles, whose shells bear stylized renderings of the actors’ crests. The turtles, who like the thespians were said to be inordinately fond of rice wine, are gathering around a floating wine cup.

In Kawanabe Kyōsai’s Gods Sumo Wrestling, two of the Seven Lucky Gods – who are said to bring good fortune during the New Year celebrations – are engaged in a playful match, while a third acts as referee. Ebisu, the god of fisherman and merchants, and Daikoku are ebullient and clearly enjoying the contest and prospects of the New Year. Jurojin, the god of longevity, is glum, contemplating the passing of another year, which brings the mortals who worship him closer to the end of their days.

JADA Members: Judith Dowling Asian Art • Sebastian Izzard LLC Asian Art • Leighton R. Longhi, Inc. Oriental Art • Mika Gallery • Erik Thomsen LLC Asian Art • Koichi Yanagi Oriental Fine Arts

New York | Japanese Art Dealers Association | Pre-modern Japanese Art |

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