Exhibition at TAI Modern celebrates the beguiling confluence of light, shadow, and Japanese bamboo art

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Exhibition at TAI Modern celebrates the beguiling confluence of light, shadow, and Japanese bamboo art
Morigami Jin, Sea of Clouds, 2019. Madake bamboo, rattan, 19.25 x 18.5 x 18 in.

SANTA FE, NM.- As the weather gets colder and days get shorter, something very special happens in the gallery. For a brief period of time in late afternoon, works of bamboo art on view transform in the slanting rays of the low winter sun. Bamboo glows as fantastical shadows stretch across walls and pedestals. Already beautiful objects become beautiful in a different way.

This winter, TAI Modern celebrates the beguiling confluence of light, shadow, and Japanese bamboo art. Sometimes subtle, often dramatic, the shadows cast by the works featured in this exhibition are almost as beautiful as the works themselves.

Like a skyscraper in an urban landscape at dusk, Tanabe Chikuunsai IV’s Creative City casts a trailing edge of shadow that echoes the architectural shape of the piece. Says Tanabe, “Every time my father [Japanese bamboo artist Tanabe Chikuunsai III] drove on the Hanshin Expressway near the Nakanoshima district, he would say ‘I like to drive this road. It passes by many buildings.’ Indeed, he made many sculptures in the theme of the city. When traveling through the same area, I often remember his words. Over the years, the city has evolved and modernized. I began thinking about making a series of sculptures to capture the city as it is today, rather than as it was when it inspired my father years ago. This Creative City series was born as a result. I like to see the lights from the buildings in the city while I am driving at high speed at night. The shadows this piece casts represent the light and shadow of the city itself.”

Though a beautiful shadow can sometimes be a happy accident, often it is a tribute to the artist’s imaginative and technical skills in regard to play of light and shadows.

Endo Gen’s Evening Sky, a golden blonde basket that seems to glow under the light, casts a shadow of vibrating geometry. “I wanted to express the sky and clouds at twilight through this piece,” states the artist. “It casts vivid undulating shadows. Open weave is one of my favorite techniques because of the visual effect it creates. Depending upon the angle of the light, this piece casts a radiating shadow within and outside of the piece.”

One of the most prominent contemporary Japanese bamboo artists, Morigami Jin, is already well known for making work with gorgeous shadows. With plenty of rewards and stunning pieces already behind him, this artist seems always in contemplation of the play of shadow that is a secondary, but important, aspect of his work. Whether irregularly woven, twined or hexagonally plaited, the strips of bamboo in his pieces are arranged in patterns that cast startling silhouettes when lit from any angle. In regard to Sea of Clouds, Morigami says, “I made this piece to challenge my technical abilities. Artmaking to me is the constant physical battle between the medium and the artist. It is no different from martial arts. The work at the end of such a battle is a visual record of the fight I had. The undulation of the form could be seen as an indicator of how severe the battle was. Each side insists on its own will and ways but meets halfway in the end. What’s most important is that both the bamboo and I did the absolute best we could in the process. The shadow of each piece vividly tells the story of that exchange.”

The hidden, changing, and transitory shadows invoke curiosity and give the viewer a chance to participate, engage, and experience the work in a different way. Elements or characteristics, like color, that might dominate in even diffuse lighting recede with the arrival of shadows, and other qualities-- like transparency, structure, and silhouette-- take center stage.

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