Japan is a truly specific country – it has a very rich tradition and culture, and on the other hand it is one of the most developed countries in the world. For decades, Japanese society has been divided between traditional and modern. This dichotomy can be understood as a divide, but also as a rich fusion – a fusion between the traditional Japanese values and modern values of a globalized world. And what does it mean for regular Japanese people? This is the question the traditional master of Japanese painting Hiroomi Ito is posing. Although he uses painting as a main art medium, his style can even be understood as being a partly conceptual art movement, since he deals with questions such as identity, contemporaneity and time. His first solo exhibition in the United States will take place at Jan Kossen Gallery in New York, and the show is entitled The Chrysanthemum and the Sword.
Hiroomi Ito is Tokyo-born Japanese artist who lives and works in Barcelona, Spain. He belongs to a small category of Japanese artists who not only produce their own color pigments out of natural dyes, but makes the rice paper - the canvas – upon which the artwork is painted on. The artist uses materials and techniques that are similar to the style of ancient Japan (check out our list of 10 Japanese artists under 50). However, Hiroomi Ito’s subject matter is in fact a contemporary one; the artist examines Japan’s modern society and infrastructure, and researches how the culture of the family structure – the backbone of Japanese culture - has steadily disappeared; along with the pride associated to belonging to an old culture. With a “clash of civilizations”, Japanese traditional societal structures are struck by globalization (Vietnamese artist Bui Thanh Tam examines the position of family in modern Vietnam, be sure to take a look at his art. If you are interested in globalization, environment and urbanism, take a look at the work by Tadashi Kawamata). And, in Japan, family has a very important role. For example, in his series Unlimited desire, Hiroomi Ito uses symbolism in paintings that communicate that the family head (the lord of the home) is the center of the family, a healthy and wealthy individual, who is, however, observed through contemporary lenses.
The Chrysanthemum and the Sword exhibition at Jan Kossen Gallery will present works by Hiroomi Ito questioning the position of traditional family values in contemporary Japanese society. In many of his works, the food (symbolizing family value) is one of the main subject-matters. Inspired by European 15th century still life paintings of the natural world, Hiroomi Ito depicts dishes typically found in Asia, as a reference to both devotional and secular images. There is so much symbolism in his paintings. For example, the gold represents the wealth of the owner, or “master of the home”. The steam generated by the cooking fire, represents the passion life, and the ability to have the strength to deliver “food on the table” – to provide well for the home. After all, it is all about the status of family in modern Japan.
The Chrysanthemum and the Sword is the first solo exhibition featuring work by Japanese artist Hiroomi Ito in the United States. Until this moment, the artist had exhibitions in Tokyo and Spain. The artist will be present during the opening vernissage. The exhibition entitled Chrysanthemum and the Sword by amazing Japanese artist Hiroomi Ito will be on view from June 11th until July 11th at Jan Kossen Gallery in New York.
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Featured Image: Hiroomi Ito - Fish and Shellfish Nabe Byobu, 2012
All Images Courtesy of Jan Kossen Gallery.