It’s an art nearly as old as civilization itself. Since the Neolithic era, artisans in East Asia have coated bowls, cups, boxes, baskets, and other utilitarian objects with a natural polymer distilled from the sap of the rhus verniciflua, known as the lacquer tree. Lacquerware was—and still is—prized for its sheen, a lustrous beauty that artists learned to accentuate over the centuries with inlaid gold, silver, mother-of-pearl, and other precious materials.
Since the late 1980s, this tradition has been challenged. A small but enterprising circle of lacquer artists have pushed the medium in entirely new and dynamic directions by creating large-scale sculptures, works that are both conceptually innovative and superbly exploitive of lacquer’s natural virtues. Thirty works by 16 artists comprise the first-ever comprehensive exhibition of contemporary Japanese lacquer sculpture.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.