Japan Society's Deco Japan Exhibit Opens 3/16; Fiber Futures Closes Dec. 18

Japan Society's Deco Japan Exhibit Opens 3/16; Fiber Futures Closes Dec. 18

A thoroughly Japanese expression of the first truly global design style-Art Deco-came into being in the 20s and 30s, when the luxe and the low, the old and the new, and the East and the West were shaken and stirred into a unique cultural cocktail.

The Gallery at Japan Society considers this phenomenon from March 16 to June 10, 2012 in Deco Japan: Shaping Modern Culture, 1920–1945.  The exhibition assembles fine examples of the sophisticated craftsmanship and design one associates with Japan-in ceramics, lacquerware, glass, metalwork, jewelry, textiles, sculpture, painting, and lithography-contextualized by colorful ephemera and goods mass-produced for the modern home.  Some 200 works are drawn from the Levenson Collection, the world's finest private holding of Japanese art and design from the Art Deco period. 

All bangs, bob, and bright red lips, the modern girl, or moga, is undoubtedly the star of the show.  As the primary subject as well as the primary consumer of Art Deco design in Japan, the moga appears on a vast majority of the works featured in Deco Japan.  "Beginning in the early 20th century, Japanese women began to enter the work world in force, as typists, shop assistants, office clerks, and the like," says guest curator Kendall H. Brown, Professor of Japanese Art History at California State University.  "Their desire to display their newfound freedom helped to fuel the vitality of the era and spawn new floating worlds in the fashionable districts of Tokyo. "

After its showing in New York, Deco Japan travels to The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, Florida (July 2012); The Albuquerque Museum of Art and History (February 2013) ; The Society of the Four Arts, Palm Beach, Florida (November 2013); and other venues to be announced.  The exhibition and its tour are organized by Art Services International, a nonprofit traveling exhibition organization in Alexandria, Virginia.

"In the late 20s and 30s, Tokyo was rebuilding and modernizing in the wake of the 1923 earthquake," notes Joe Earle, Director of Japan Society Gallery, who collaborated with DR. Brown to organize the showing.  "There was a pent-up desire, after years of hardship, to make, consume, and shake off tradition in favor of the new, modern way of living."

This thirst for the new, in tandem with other complex social forces, is examined in Deco Japan.  "Rather than grouping by medium, we have juxtaposed different kinds of objects in order to shed light on the appropriations, formal strategies, and social context of Art Deco in Japan," says DR. Brown