Japanese Art Deco exhibit coming to Tyler Museum of Art

Published on Thursday, 13 June 2013 21:06 - Written by

Staff Reports

The first exhibition outside of Tokyo to spotlight the vastly influential style of “Japanese Art Deco” is set to roll into East Texas as the Tyler Museum of Art’s major show of the 2013 summer and fall seasons.

“Deco Japan: Shaping Art and Culture, 1920-1945” opens to the public June 23, continuing through Oct. 20 at the museum. Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for seniors and students, and free for museum members and children 12 and younger.

This internationally celebrated traveling exhibition from Art Services International, organizer of previous museum offerings including “The Devonshire Inheritance: Five Centuries of Collecting at Chatsworth,” showcases almost 200 decorative art objects, paintings and prints drawn from the Levenson Collection of Florida, the world’s premier assembly of Japanese art in the Deco and Modern style. Tyler represents one of two museums in the Southwest — and the only venue in Texas — to host Deco Japan.

“We almost couldn’t believe the TMA’s good fortune in having the opportunity to present such an extraordinary, and popular, exhibition,” TMA Curator Ken Tomio said. “When we heard from ASI that they had an open set of dates between Albuquerque and Palm Beach, Fla., we had to take advantage of that timing. We join some of the finest venues in the country — the Seattle Art Museum, the Japan Society Gallery in New York, the Columbia Museum of Art in South Carolina — in hosting this exhibition, and we’re proud to be in such esteemed company. The fact that the pieces in the show are absolutely stunning certainly doesn’t hurt.”

Art Deco as a term only entered the popular lexicon in the early 1960s, to emphasize the range of styles and sensibilities that grew out of the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes (popularly known as the Art Deco Exposition) held in Paris in 1925. Between the two World Wars, when 20th-century modernism established a hold in the art realm, Deco emerged as a cultural as well as artistic movement.

The works included in Deco Japan, selected by curator Dr. Kendall H. Brown, showcase the sophisticated design and meticulous craftsmanship of a singular time in art history, and include unique fine art objects and mass-produced consumer goods designed for use in modern homes. Pieces run the gamut from the purely decorative to utilitarian, including sculpture, ceramics, glassware, jewelry, textiles, graphic design in print, painting and woodblock prints, lacquerware and wooden furniture.

The exhibition is divided into five sections, organized to highlight the formal, social and cultural implications of Japanese Deco. “Cultural Appropriations” explores themes of Euro-American modernity with fountains and skyscrapers and animal motifs in ceramics and bronze. “Formal Manipulations” spotlights the reductive Deco style of simple shapes, bright colors and spare ornamentation in abstract works. “Over & Under the Sea” focuses on the ubiquitous Deco motifs of ocean liners, beach culture and tropical fish. “Social Expressions” illuminates the Deco style’s immersion in political and social themes, particularly in representations of the Jazz Age icon of the Japanese flapper or “modern girl.” The show culminates with “The Cultured Home,” which captures the Deco influence in architecture and public spaces, as well as the movement’s effect on modern domesticity through furniture and household items.

Deco Japan is drawn from The Levenson Collection and is organized and circulated by Art Services International, Alexandria, Va. Support has been provided by The Chisholm Foundation and the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, with local support (as of press time) courtesy of Mrs. Harold Cameron, exhibition underwriter; June and Steve Hillis and the Jean and Graham Devoe Williford Charitable Trust, Collectors’ Circle sponsors; and Anonymous, lecture sponsor.

Members are invited for a sneak peek at Deco Japan during a Preview Reception scheduled from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. June 22. To RSVP or for more information on becoming a museum member, call 903-595-1001.

Special events in connection with the exhibition include a Summer Lecture Series program featuring Deco Japan curator Dr. Kendall H. Brown, professor of Asian Art History at California State University, Long Beach. The lecture, titled Delirious Japan, is scheduled for 2 p.m. July 14 in the Jean Browne Theatre, in the Wise Cultural Arts Center directly across from the museum on the Tyler Junior College campus. Tickets are free for members and students, and $5 for adults.

The museum, accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, is at 1300 S. Mahon Ave., adjacent to the TJC campus off East Fifth Street. Regular hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. The museum is supported by its members and TJC. For more information, call 903-595-1001 or visit tylermuseum.org.