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Exceptional & Ordinary / Tsutakawa & Mingei

The Japanese art gallery at SAM’s downtown location was recently reinstalled with a focus on the Mingei movement in Exceptionally Ordinary: Mingei 1920–2020, on view through Novemeber 8, 2020. Initiated in the 1920s by the Japanese collector and connoisseur Yanagi Soetsu (1889–1961), Mingei elevated functional, everyday crafts to art objects. Since its foundation, Mingei’s broad applications range from mid-century decorative arts to contemporary designs, ceramics, textiles, sculptures, and prints, examples of which are hanging in our gallery. Prominently featured, are works by the late Seattle-based artist George Tsutakawa on loan from the George Tsutakwa Art Legacy. The Tsutakawa family share below about George’s inspiration and how his furniture fits in the installation at SAM!

George Tsutakawa began to build bronze fountain sculptures in 1961 with the installation of his first fountain at the Seattle Public Library. He eventually created 75 fountain sculptures in the United States, Canada, and Japan. The fountains reflect his intense interest in the cyclical flow of water from the heavens to earth, creating rivers and oceans that nourish life. His basis of humanity in the Shinto religion indicated reverence for life in all forms made by nature, such as trees and rocks. 

Tsutakawa’s professional art career spanned 60 years. He was a professor of art at the University of Washington for 37 years. In his personal statement from The Pacific Northwest Artists and Japan in 1982, he expressed that sometime in the 1960s his travels and studies of traditional Japanese arts allowed him to reaffirm his “conviction in the Oriental view of nature school which sees Man as one part of nature, a part that must live in harmony with the rest of nature.” 

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Studio. 1960’s. #artist #studio #maquettes

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Thus Tsutakawa’s furniture from the 1940s and 1950s reveals this conviction to nature within his art and serves as the starting point for his later artistic forms. Although he was a modernist, even in his furniture forms, his work relates to the Japanese Mingei movement, which is largely based on traditional and folk art.

Tsutakawa’s early furniture is functional and evokes a connection to nature through fluid organic shapes and materials. 

The Tsutakawa family is currently reorganizing the artist’s collection with the hope of preserving his work and making it more open to the public as well. You can visit SAM to see Tsutakawa’s artwork in Exceptionally Ordinary: Mingei 1920–2020, on view through November 8, 2020.

– Mayumi Tsutakawa & Chyenne Andrews

Images: Installation view Exceptionally Ordinary: Mingei 1920–2020, Seattle Art Museum 2019, photos: Nina Dubinsky. Kizamu Tsutakawa 

Muse/News: The art of Mingei, Kusama lost and found, and background

SAM News

The Crosscut team features chill events that will help you escape the hubbub of the holidays, including a silent disco party, a bonsai solstice, and a new SAM installation of elevated craftworks, Exceptionally Ordinary: Mingei 1920–2020.

The Seattle Review of Books is asking local luminaries, “if you could give everyone in Seattle one book as a gift this holiday season, what book would you choose and why?” Here are selections from Amada Cruz, SAM’s Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO.

Local News

After 40 years, the Pike Place newsstand is closing. Your final chance to buy a magazine, a pack of gum, or a tote is December 31.

Moira Macdonald and Bethany Jean Clement of the Seattle Times take their “Dinner at a Movie” series to the ballet. Mentioned: mouse cookies, orange-flame tutus, and all the adorable children in bows.

Go see Paul Rucker’s Forever at Greg Kucera before it closes on Saturday. The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig wrote about this “compelling” show of 15 “commemorative stamps” that feature the faces of Civil Rights-era figures.

“While remembering people like Pratt or Mississippi activist Medgar Evers by erecting a bronze statue or naming a park after them is also meaningful and important, there’s something about the domesticity and “everyday-ness” of a face on a stamp that’s just as appealing. It carries emotional power.”

Inter/National News

Researchers from University College London (UCL) studying aging found that “people who engaged in the arts more frequently had a 31% lower risk of dying early when compared to those who didn’t.”

The “inside-out” trend continues: Nina Siegal for the New York Times on Rotterdam’s Boijmans van Beuningen Museum and its forthcoming “Depot,” which will house completely open-to-the-public collection storage.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum found four small paintings by Yayoi Kusama in a manila envelope. Can you imagine?!

“I got an email saying ‘You need to come look at this right now!’” said [Melissa] Ho in a phone conversation.

And Finally

Whatever you celebrate, don’t forget your background singers.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: Installation view Exceptionally Ordinary: Mingei 1920–2020, Seattle Art Museum, 2019, photo: Nina Dubinsky.

Muse/News: New art at SAM, a lavender palette, and Donald Byrd’s America

SAM News

Two installations debut at SAM this week:

Susan Delson previews Exceptionally Ordinary: Mingei 1920–2020 for the Wall Street Journal, interviewing curator Xiaojin Wu about the movement’s “intimate beauty of honest craft.” The show opens on Saturday.

Aaron Fowler: Into Existence “gleefully disrupts standard boundaries between painting and sculpture,” says Seattle Met, recommending the solo show of the 2019 Gwendolyn Knight and Jacob Lawrence Prize-winner as one of the “Top Things to Do This December.” The show opens on Friday.

Local News

Seattle Met’s cover story for December is “The 30 Women Who Shaped Seattle,” including women with connections to SAM such as Guendolen Carkeek Plestcheeff and Zoë Dusanne.

Crosscut’s Agueda Pacheco Flores reports on the Snoqualmie Tribe’s acquisition of Eighth Generation; it was announced concurrent with Governor Inslee’s proclamation of Native Arts Week in Washington State.

The Seattle Times’ Brendan Kiley reviews The Lavender Palette, a new exhibition at Cascadia Art Museum curated by David Martin. It features early- to mid-20th-century gay and lesbian artists from the Pacific Northwest.

“Honestly, I wanted to avenge them,” Martin said. “At Cascadia, you will never see wall text that says ‘Morris Graves and his close friend’ like a lot of museums do — even in New York and Los Angeles, even in Seattle. No. Here you will always see ‘Morris Graves and his boyfriend’ or ‘and his partner.’

Inter/National News

Artnet’s Taylor Defoe reports: The four artists nominated for the 2019 Turner Prize—Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Helen Cammock, Oscar Murillo, and Tai Shani—will receive the award as a collective, at their request.

Artsy gives us a look at Mickalene Thomas’ celebratory new show, Better Nights, at The Bass in Miami Beach, replete with her signature installations and the work of her fellow artists.

“Can Dance Make a More Just America? Donald Byrd Is Working on It” is the fantastic headline in this New York Times profile of choreographer Donald Byrd, timed to the exhibition at the Frye Art Museum.

“Despite the proliferation of dance in museums over the past decade, exhibitions focused on the work of a single living choreographer remain rare. The America That Is to Be presents an in-depth portrait of a bold, enigmatic artist.”

And Finally

Scrolling the deep sea.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: Derion, 2018, hot tub cover, wood, children’s cotton and nylon coats, cotton balls, enamel paint, acrylic paint, broken mirrors, theater seats, concrete cement, 115 x 95 x 28 in. Photo: Robert Wedemeyer. Image courtesy of the artist © Aaron Fowler.

Object of the Week: Square Bowl

In honor of Women’s Herstory Month, I would like to give a shout out to two awesome Asian women. First is 34-year-old Marie Kondo, an entrepreneur who turned her passion for tidying into a consulting business starting at age 19. Her method of organizing is known as KonMari method. After watching Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix, I appreciated her philosophy that everything from a container to a t-shirt has a purpose if it sparks joy.

This idea of everyday objects having purpose and sparking joy reminds me of the folk art movement, mingei 民芸. Mingei celebrates beauty in everyday ordinary and utilitarian objects. A few criteria of mingei are that the objects are produced by hand, used by the masses, functional in daily life, and representative of the regions in which they were produced.

To me, this square bowl, ca. 2000, is mingei.

Square bowl

The second awesome Asian woman is Kim Yik Yung 김익영.  At 84 years old, she is one of Korea’s most celebrated and respected ceramic artists, and a pioneer in the ceramic arts. In the museum, this bowl is art, and it certainly is—it’s beautiful, flawless, made with ancient techniques, but with modern sensibilities. However, if I brought this home to my mom, this bowl would be a banchan 반찬 (small side dish) dish. I love that that’s the first thing that came to mind when I saw this object. It brings wonderful, tasty memories of eating at home with my family, or eating at Korean BBQ restaurants with my friends. In our culture, all dishes are served at once to share, rather than in courses. So the table is filled to the edges with lots of simple and flawless small dishes and bowls!

In an interview with Seoul Magazine on the future of Korean ceramics, Kim Yik Yung said Koreans need to protect and develop this culture. “We don’t need to protect and preserve things just because they are old. We need to protect and develop things because they have value. This Korean culture is a global idea we can share with all humanity.”

I think Kim and Kondo and I should go out for KBBQ and soju.

#toastingwithtina

– Tina Lee, Exhibitions and Publications Manager

 Image: Square bowl, ca. 2000, Kim Yik-yung, porcelain with clear glaze, 2 1/4 x 8 3/4in., Gift of Frank S. Bayley III, 2008.15 © Kim Yik-yung.

Object of the Week: 1974 calendar

Serizawa Keisuke’s 1974 calendar series is a collection of twelve paper stencils done in the katazome style. This is a technique that Serizawa adopted from textile design in which the artist applies a type of resist paste through a stencil before dyeing the fabric.[1] Paper provided a cheaper medium than cloth during the scarcity of wartime, and in the following years Serizawa began producing stenciled calendars like this one.[2] Serizawa’s stencils were later called kataezome, which distinguishes the pictorial quality of his work—e meaning picture in Japanese.[3]

In the 1974 calendar, while every month has similar elements, each one also maintains a unique style, with distinct sets of colors and images. In the January calendar, for example, orange is the dominant color, providing a patterned board upon which the dates are alternatingly carved into or out of. The orange is echoed in the foliage of the trees that sprawl above the calendar, and underneath the two figures that flank the grid of dates on either side. Despite the profuse design, the images themselves are minimal in detail.

In the calendar for the month of May, while orange accents are visible, blue is the dominant color. The neatly patterned grid from January is abandoned, and a procession of figures walks straight through the second and third weeks of the month on what ambiguously resembles a path, a tree branch, or perhaps a river. A bird flies overhead, drawing attention to the misalignment of the weekday letters.

Serizawa was associated with mingei, a folk art revival movement that was established in the early decades of the twentieth century. The movement lauded ideals of the anonymous craftsperson who made inexpensive objects that served daily utilitarian purposes. In this case, Serizawa is not anonymous, but his stencils exhibit several characteristics of mingei.

While mingei looked for beauty in everyday objects, Serizawa’s calendar makes every day into a thing of beauty. As we approach the final days of January, time marches on, much like the figures who cut through the May calendar. Here’s to beautiful days ahead, whether neatly organized or eclectically crafted.

– Maria Phoutrides, Curatorial Intern

[1] Susanna Kuo, Katagami: Japanese Textile Stencils in the Collection of the Seattle Art Museum, (Seattle: Seattle Art Museum, 1985): 1-3
[2] Hugh Cortazzi, “Keisuke Serizawa (1895-1984),” Arts of Asia, 25, no. 2 (1995): 79
[3] Joe Earle, Serizawa: Master of Japanese Textile Design, (New York: Japan Society, 2009): 94
Images: 1974 calendar, 1974, Serizawa Keisuke, stencil, 14 1/2 x 11 in., Gift of Frances and Thomas Blakemore,98.53.132.5 © Artist or Artist’s Estate. 1974 calendar, 1974, Serizawa Keisuke, stencil, 14 1/2 x 11 in., Gift of Frances and Thomas Blakemore, 98.53.132.1 © Artist or Artist’s Estate