The work of some of Japan’s most important artists of the last 100 years will be on display in Milwaukee at Art Japan: 2021-1921, a new exhibition drawn from the collection of The Warehouse that will run from July 9 until September 24.
With over 80 works in the exhibition from 18 artists, the art, ideas, and studio practice of each artist will be shown in depth through several works. The exhibition includes painting, drawing, modern and contemporary prints, silver and gold leaf constructions, as well as ceramics, basketry, textiles and recently acquired fiber art. The exhibition leans toward the contemporary but as is so common with Japanese art, has deep roots in traditional methods and materials.
The Warehouse owners John Shannon and Jan Serr collected the work over the last forty years for their own edification and study. The collection is personal. They live with these works in their home, where they are appreciated for their craftsmanship, refinement, line, spontaneity, invention and pure aesthetics.
“Picasso once said that there are only two types of art – good art and bad,” said Shannon. “As collectors, we do not believe in the artificial hierarchy of the arts. We make no distinction between so-called fine art, the decorative arts or finely crafted objects. We believe that a large oil painting of an historic subject is not inherently superior to a finely crafted ceramic bowl that is new, fresh and beautiful every day.”
In addition to including modernist woodblocks from famed artist Tsukioka Kogyo (1869-1927), a special part of the exhibition pays homage to Toko Shinoda, who died March 1, 2021 at age 107. Shinoda worked with sumi ink paintings and prints, blending calligraphy with abstract expressionism. In the late 1940s and 1950s, she lived in New York City and exhibited with Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell and others. Her work is in the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago.
“From the point of view of the artist, you begin with a clear mind, working in the moment,” said Serr. “A calligrapher, for example, with a brush full of sumi ink, applies the ink directly, quickly and confidently. First marks are final marks. Likewise, for the observer, it is important to approach each piece of art with a clear and open mind, pre-judging nothing, appreciating everything, including a crack in a glaze or the change of color in a weaving.”
Located at 1635 W. St. Paul Avenue, Art Japan: 2021-1921 is the second of a trilogy of exhibitions at The Warehouse exploring Asia. The first show was Jan Serr: A Painter’s Photographs of India (2019), and the third will be Jan Serr: Then & Now – Photographs of China, which opens in October 2021.
The exhibition curator is Annemarie Sawkins, who has lived in Japan, curated several exhibitions of Asian art, and has a deep appreciation for Japanese art and design. For The Warehouse, she previously curated On the Nature of Wisconsin: 80 Years of Work by 40 Artists. She is currently in the final stages of a book on the history of Wisconsin art.