Saturday, October 10, 2009

Serizawa at the Japan Society

I've just returned from the Japan Society's beautifully mounted exhibition, Serizawa: Master of Japanese Textile Design, devoted to the work of Keisuke Serizawa (or Serizawa Keisuke, if you prefer), a master of the use of stencil dyeing techniques for printing fabric and other materials. This was the show's first weekend, and I was lucky enough to share a nearly private guided tour of the rooms.

Serizawa (1895-1984) was already a professional textile designer in the 1920s, when he came under two influences that were to shape his long career. One was Yanagi Sōetsu, the guiding spirit of the mingei or folk art movement in Japan; the other was his introduction to the Okinawan dyeing technique known as bingata.

The pieces on exhibit include kimonos and sashes, folding screens, wall scrolls and noren, as well as calendars and book design.

This one's a bit of trompe l'oeil; there are no cords here, only stencilling:

Here's a mandala designed in honor of President John F. Kennedy:

As he became popular Serizawa was much sought after for book covers and illustrations. This one is from a Japanese edition of Don Quixote.

For those who can't make it to the show there is an excellent full-color catalog published by Yale University Press, but to appreciate the vivid colors and subtle textures you really need to make the trip. Both the tour and admission were free this weekend, although there is normally an admission fee. The Japan Society is located at 333 East 47th Street, just across the street from Dag Hammarskjold Park.

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