Since Neolithic times, craftspeople across East Asia have used the sap of the lacquer tree (Toxicodendron vernicifluum) to coat and bond together wood, bamboo, textiles, and ceramics to make articles for daily and ritual use. The natural polymer refined from the sap forms a durable, waterproof surface that protects and beautifies. Lacquerware was — and continues to be — prized for its lustre, which 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, artworks that are both conceptually innovative and superbly exploitive of lacquer’s natural virtues.
Organized by the Minneapolis Institute of Art, the thirty-three works by sixteen artists comprise the first-ever comprehensive exhibition of contemporary Japanese lacquer sculpture. All are drawn from the Clark Collections at Mia, the only collection in the world to feature this extraordinary new form.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website