All posts in “mingei”

Square bowl

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.
Share

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
Share
Share