Friday, March 18, 2011

The Art of Japan in New York

Interior of the Joan Mirviss gallery.
Today is the beginning of Asia Week in New York, the annual Asian art and antiques festival, which this year includes five auction houses, 18 museums and cultural institutions. and more than 30 dealers. Early last week I had the pleasure of having some tea with Joan Mirviss, a leading dealer in Japanese art and ceramics, and viewing her current exhibition of Japanese artists. Then of course at the end of the week calamity of unimaginable proportion struck the island of Japan, and the danger is still unfolding.

"We are incredibly relieved to report that none of our friends, artists or colleagues were hurt or severely affected by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami," reports Joan this week. "However, some members of their families who resided in the Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima regions are suffering or have yet to be located. Our hearts and deepest sympathies go out to the tens of thousands of people and their families who have been devastated by these events."

Joan recommends that in order to help, go to the Japan Society which has set up a fund for immediate relief to those affected by the disasters. 100% of your tax-deductible contribution will go to organizations that directly help victims.

Joan Mirviss has been an expert in Japanese art and antiques for 35 years, and was particularly inspired in 1983 by an exhibition at the Smithsonian Institute on contemporary Japanese ceramics. She was first a private dealer, working out of her home on Central Park West, until three years ago when she moved into this gallery on East 78th Street which was designed for her by Jane Sachs of HS2 Architecture.

Natural recycled wood, metal, and glass make up the interior which is modern and serene at the same time. I loved this metal and wood shelving for art – wouldn't something like it look great in a residential loft?

For Asia Week Joan has mounted an exhibition called "Birds of Dawn" which highlights three pioneers of Japan's contemporary ceramic movement – Suzuki Osamu, Yagi Kazuo and Yamada Hikaru. "This exhibit was been 25 years in the making." says Joan, who has lived in Japan, speaks Japanese, and visits there two or three times a year, collecting pieces and searching out new artists.

Joan Mirviss
These three featured artists, now all deceased, created an original art form by applying ancient Asian firing techniques to modern shapes inspired by Brancusi and Picasso. This piece called "Horse Figure" by Suzuki is sleek and hard-edged, yet it's red textured surface looks weathered and timeless.

This large "Horse" by Suzuki is covered with a similar red glaze and ash slip for a primitive finish. Priced at $25-30,000, Joan sells these pieces to art museums, and finds that private collectors are now interested in art works of clay, a material that had previously been considered craft.

Japan in New York: Art displayed with a view down to Madison Avenue and Central Park beyond.

Rough-hewn recycled wood sets the stage for modern stoneware sculptures by Suzuki.

These dishes by Suzuki would be great for Friday night sushi, no?

In an alcove, "Flamboyant Bird" by Suzuki has landed beneath a silk banner by Seisei Kiitsu who painted these irises in the rain in 1838. The old and the new placed together creates a striking composition.

The past, present and future of Japan are captured in this gallery, as the people of the world send care and concern to that island nation.

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