Japanese Art as Metaphor: “Return to the Sea” and “Hanga Reinvented”
Japanese contemporary art can be a wonder to behold, as evidenced by the current exhibit at the Monterey Museum of Art. These two ongoing exhibits are not to be missed. The first is a 300-pound salt installation that covers 1800 sq. ft. of the gallery floor, now roped off so that the observer doesn’t inadvertently step on the salt. Motoi Yamamoto’s lovingly created artwork is a commemoration of his sister’s death almost twenty years ago.
Table salt has been painstakingly drawn with a needle-nosed bottle to create a lacy, macramé-like image of two typhoons, resembling a labyrinth of string or lace spiraling delicately into a meditative vortex. Traditionally used for purification rituals to send the dearly departed to the afterlife, salt (or sand) is a Buddhist symbol for the ephemeral nature of life and materialism. Yamamoto’s work is similar to the Tibetan Buddhist sand paintings, involving painting a mandala, then sweeping the work and transporting the containers of sand to a river to be washed away. So too Yamamoto’s “SaltWorks” installation will be swept into bottles, transported to Fisherman’s Wharf , and returned to the sea. The public is invited to participate on August 25 at 1:00 pm. According to the artist, returning the salt to the sea is a healing process, a rejuvenation and experience of a happier time. [See the video clip of the installation at: http://vimeo.com/68486340].
The second exhibit focuses on Japanese late 20th century woodblock and screen prints.
These hanga (lit. “prints”), part of the museum’s permanent collection, feature a break from the traditional pre-20th century ukiyo-e, a highly stylized process of woodblock carving and representational subject matter. The contemporary hanga exhibit utilizes not only woodcut but also silkscreen and etching techniques. These prints have a vivid abstract format with brilliant colors, bold geometric compositions, and experimental use of negative space. My personal favorites are Yukio Fukazawa, Fukita Fumiaki and Kiyoshi Saito: some of their work is not available for viewing even online. A sheer visual thrill for all art lovers in the Monterey area!