Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Fiber Futures – tradition and modernity

The extraordinary exhibition “Fiber Futures: Japan’s Textile Pioneers,” currently on display at the Gallery of the Japan Society features thirty contemporary Japanese artists who use various materials raging from cotton, antique paper scraps, flax, jute, ethereal silk and hemp to paper pulp and synthetic fiber to created innovative works of art.Though methods that are sometime deeply traditional Japanese, or though the latest weaving and dyeing technologies, these celebrated artists transform simple fabrics into three dimensional objects or abstract wall pictures. The works exhibited can be described as a combination of cutting age fashion, fine art, avant-garde design with the latest technology. My favorite was Machiko Agano's A wood III. One can walk freely through the entire room and see their reflection in the printed mirror sheets from which the object is made.This particular experience reminded me of Yoko Ono’s "Ceiling Painting" exhibited in 1966. In the “Ceiling Painting” the viewers had to climb up a ladder in the center of the exhibition, from where a magnifying glass hanging from the ceiling allowed them to view the word "YES". Therefore, in order to fully understand the work, the viewer’s needs to take a challenge. Similarly, I found myself in the Fiber Futures exhibit standing in front of the second room, ambivalent about stepping in. I was questioning myself: Am I allowed to get this close to a precious art object? Eventually I stepped into the room, and I’ve seen my reflection and the object up-close. And it was a liberating experience indeed, similar to the experience described by some of the viewers of “Ceiling painting” –including John Lennon.