Bamboo in the Big Apple

Japanese bamboo work is having something of a moment, with a major exhibition on this art form at the Metropolitan Museum of  Art.  Over at the Erik Thomsen Gallery you’ll find Masterpieces of Bamboo Art  a fabulous exhibit  of 30 Japanese baskets, all signed by their makers, and made in the last 100 years. Bamboo basket making originated in Japan in medieval times and baskets were first used to display flowers on Buddhist altars, then later in tea drinking ceremonies.  The baskets in this exhibit are primarily from three eras: the Heisei (1989 – present); the Showa (1926-1989); and the Taisho (1912-1926).  Executed in various shapes such as hexagonal, conical and round, the pieces all display the extraordinary craftsmanship and artistry of the basket makers,  especially in their range of weaves (or plaits) which include lozenge technique, circle plaiting, and twill plaiting (herringbone effect).

Handled Flower Basket in the form of a gourd, Maeda Chikubōsai, Showa era (1926-89)

The main body of this basket by Maeda Chikubōsai is executed in a variant of mat plaiting, using double horizontals and creating an intricate undulating surface. There’s elaborate knotting on the branches which form the handle, and around the rim.

Auspicious Clouds flower basket in Chinese style with small handles, Suzuki Kyokushōsai, Taisho era (1912-26)

Auspicious Clouds, by Suzuki Kyokushōsai exhibits a number of elaborate plaiting techniques, including hexagonal and circular (base) as well as wrapping and knotting. 

Tall Handled Flower Basket, Wada Waichisai II, Taisho era (1912-26)

Wada Waichisai II was the second in a lineage founded by Waichisai I (1851–1901), one of the pioneers of bamboo art in the Kansai region.

Connection, Tenabe Chikuusai IV, Heisei era (1989-present)

Tanabe Chikuunsai IV was born in 1973 to one of Japan’s most prestigious families of bamboo craftsmen.  He is the chosen son, representing the fourth generation of bamboo artists in his family. It’s easy to see why – his technique is fabulous. He also created a site-specific sculpture for the Met show.

For this exhibit, the gallery has also commissioned a detailed catalogue  with lovely photos of the works.

The exhibit continues through November 10th.  Erik Thomsen Gallery  is at 23 East 67th Street.

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