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2008 June 15

I haven’t done much for the last couple days, but this afternoon I braved a longer bus ride and rode out to Kanazawa’s 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, or Kanazawa 21 Seiki Bijutsukan as it’s rendered in the title of this post. Mrs. Hashiba and I walked by it a couple times, but she had no interest in modern art; however, Profs. Miura and Okazawa both recommended I go there as part of my initial survey of Japanese artwork, and I wanted an excuse to get out there anyway to see the Ron Mueck exhibit. More on that later!

The museum building is cool and very modern, but pretty confusing to navigate. Eventually I found myself in front of an exhibit door, and though I couldn’t read what the exhibit was of, I decided to buy myself a ticket and go in. As I pulled out my money, though, a middle-aged Japanese woman rushed up and handed me one. She apparently had extras and decided to make this clueless foreigner’s day. As it turned out, the exhibit was of modern ikebana pieces, which was very interesting in comparison with the very traditional ikebana exhibition Mrs. Hashiba took me to, as well as considering the basic principles of ikebana color Prof. Okazawa briefed me on when we met on Thursday. A lot of these pieces definitely broke the traditional color sparsity pattern of ikebana in very deliberate ways! There were lots of people taking pictures in the first floor of the exhibit, so I did so as well – for research purposes, of course (they’re on my Flickr if you’d like to see). The second floor had clear no-photography signs, but my camera was low on battery by that point anyway; still, there were some spectacular pieces down there I wish I had pictures of.

After that, I wandered around again until I found the Ron Mueck exhibit and paid my way into that. It was really amazing. Mueck, if you’ve never heard of him, used to make models and puppets for movies; he most famously did the pupppets for the movie Labryinth with David Bowie. After the death of his father, Mueck left the commercial realm and has become a hyper-realistic sculptor. This page has some great information on him in addition to nice pictures of his work, but be warned that the sculptures can be a little scary – especially the first one, which I saw in the gallery today: a giant newborn baby girl. (Luckily the photos don’t show you her lower half with the umbilical cord.) A little further down, though, there’s a great picture of “Spooning Couple”, which was my favorite piece. They’re very small, but perfectly detailed to be very natural-looking; the more you stare at them, the more real they start to feel. I had to move away from them after a while because their expressions were haunting me. It was as if they were both worried about slightly different things, and what was supposed to be a loving, comfortable position was currently very strained for them. “In Bed” is also a breathtaking piece, especially when you walk in on it! Ron Mueck, fantastic artist – not exactly Japan-related, but hey, I was lucky enough to be able to see a) an exhibit of his b) in Japan!

On my way out of the Mueck exhibit, a museum staff member directed me down some stairs to this pool. You have no idea what to expect until you walk into the actual pool itself, and then it’s very cool to look up through the water and realize what it is. Yes, it’s just a blue room with a thin layer of water being pumped between two sheets of plexiglass, but it’s so neat!

I hit the museum gift shop on the way out looking for Mueck postcards, which I sadly did not find, but I did take a wise look at the bookshelf in search of something with the character 色 (color) on it. I definitely lucked out; there was a book called 日本の色辞典 – “A Dictionary of Japanese Colors” – that seems to be information on the sources of various pigments as well as their traditional usage. It’s all in Japanese, of course, so it’s going to take a long time to slog through, but hopefully I can glean something from it. What I think I’m most happy about is that it proves that the Japanese have made colorful dyes for a long time; the professors here insist that traditional Japanese art prefers to use color sparsely, but obviously an enormous variety of colored dyes and pigments were created.

I’m not sure what the plan for the rest of the week is, but I’m slowly mastering getting around, obtaining food, etc. Progress!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Sparks permalink
    2008 June 17 7:27 pm

    She looks sad… he looks contemplative… Neither look like they want to be spooning…

    I really like Two Women…

    that pool thing is AWESOME I’ve seen pictures of it before.. but I always thought it was something else.. I really wish I could have seen that.. I wanna be in the awesome pool.

  2. marainjapan permalink
    2008 June 19 8:16 am

    Two Women wasn’t in this exhibition, sadly, but I really like that one from the photos. They’re tiny sculptures, sure, but you still get the feeling they’re gossiping about you… To me, the spooning couple looks like there’s some topic they’re avoiding discussing, but she’s upset about it and he doesn’t know how to comfort her. I really started feeling for them.

    The pool is totally awesome. We’ll go together sometime.

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