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Tyler Museum of Art unveils major internationally celebrated Deco Japan exhibition
Artist unknown. Man’s Under Robe with Skyscraper Design (detail), c. 1932. Printed silk, 52 ¾ x 51 x 19 5/8 in. Courtesy of the Levenson Collection.
TYLER, TX.- The first exhibition outside of Tokyo to spotlight the vastly influential style of Japanese Art Deco rolled into East Texas as the Tyler Museum of Art’s major show of the 2013 summer and fall seasons. Deco Japan: Shaping Art and Culture, 1920-1945 opened to the public Sunday, June 23, continuing through Oct. 20 at the TMA.

This internationally celebrated traveling exhibition from Art Services International (ASI), organizer of previous TMA offerings including The Devonshire Inheritance: Five Centuries of Collecting at Chatsworth, showcases close to 200 decorative art objects, paintings and prints drawn from the Levenson Collection of Florida, the world’s premier assembly of Japanese art in the Deco and Modern style. The TMA represents one of two museums in the Southwest – and the only venue in Texas – to host Deco Japan.

“We almost couldn’t believe the TMA’s good fortune in having the opportunity to present such an extraordinary, and popular, exhibition,” TMA Curator Ken Tomio said. “When we heard from ASI that they had an open set of dates between Albuquerque and Palm Beach, Fla., we had to take advantage of that timing. We join some of the finest venues in the country – the Seattle Art Museum, the Japan Society Gallery in New York, the Columbia Museum of Art in South Carolina – in hosting this exhibition, and we’re proud to be in such esteemed company. The fact that the pieces in the show are absolutely stunning certainly doesn’t hurt.”

“Art Deco” as a term only entered the popular lexicon in the early 1960s, to emphasize the range of styles and sensibilities that grew out of the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes (popularly known as the Art Deco Exposition) held in Paris in 1925. Between the two World Wars, when 20th-Century modernism established a firm hold in the realm of fine art, Deco emerged as a cultural as well as artistic movement, permeating the social fabric from fashion to cinema across the globe.

The nearly 200 works included in Deco Japan, selected by curator Dr. Kendall H. Brown, showcase the sophisticated design and meticulous craftsmanship of a singular time in art history, ranging from unique fine art objects to mass-produced consumer goods designed for use in modern homes. Pieces run the gamut from the purely decorative to utilitarian, including sculpture ceramics, glassware, jewelry, textiles, graphic design in print, painting and woodblock prints, lacquerware and wooden furniture.

The exhibition is divided into five sections, organized thematically to highlight the formal, social and cultural implications of Japanese Deco. “Cultural Appropriations” explores themes of Euro-American modernity from fountains and skyscrapers to animal motifs in ceramics and bronze. “Formal Manipulations” spotlights the reductive Deco style of simple shapes, bright colors and spare ornamentation in abstract works across a variety of materials. “Over & Under the Sea” focuses on the ubiquitous Deco motifs of ocean liners, beach culture and tropical fish. “Social Expressions” illuminates the Deco style’s immersion in political and social themes, particularly in representations of the Jazz Age icon of the Japanese flapper or “modern girl.” The show culminates with “The Cultured Home,” which captures the Deco influence in architecture and public spaces, as well as the movement’s impact on modern domesticity through furniture and household items.





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