Tanabe Chikuunsai—One of Japan's First Families of Bamboo Artists May05

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Tanabe Chikuunsai—One of Japan's First Families of Bamboo Artists

Chikuunsai

Work by Tanabe Chikuunsai III

On Sunday, I spent the day in Osaka, looking at contemporary architecture and catching photographer Sugimoto Hiroshi-san’s exhibition at the Osaka National Museum of Art as well as a two man show of the work of Tanabe Chikuunsai-san III and his son Shochiku-san at Takashimaya Department Store.  Not only are Takashimaya Galleries some of the most prestigious venues for artists in Japan, but one of the four generations of Tanabe family bamboo artitsts has had such a solo show there, every year since 1923. I have been following the work of the father and son artists since I met them seven years ago and have had the privilege of taking American museum groups to their studio, on a number of occasions.

Chikuunsai 4

Work by Tanabe Shochiku.

In their work, we can see many examples of innovations that were introduced by the two earlier generations of master bamboo artists in their family. The first generation, Chikuunsai I, created dynamic works in the Chinese style as well as the Art Deco-inspired Japanese style that he was pivotal in launching. The 2nd generation, Chikuunsai II, both followed the work and innovations of his father and, at the same time, produced works of legendary originality, including a genre of baskets that are nearly weightless, with a delicacy unknown previous to that time. Many of his works are mid-20th century modernist.

Chikuunsai 3

Work by Tanabe Shochiku.

Works of Chikuunsai III, as well as the works of his father and grandfather, are included in the extraordinary Lloyd Cotsen Collection and in permanent collections of museums, world-wide.  The current holder of the family’s artist name,  Chikuunsai III, has continued implementation of the family’s skills plus his own innovation.  His work in the show includes many pieces that subtly and delightfully reinterpret the functional flower baskets of the two previous generations as well as pieces bordering on contemporary art.

Until recently, the works of his son Shochiku-san, heir apparent to the Chikuunsai name, were primarily contemporary object d’art. Recently, however, he has been actively expanding his work to include his own techinically innovative style of functional flower baskets, that are highlighted in this show.  Both father and son are represented by Santa Fe, New Mexico-based TAI Gallery, the establishment that was primarily responsible for bringing awareness of Japan’s exciting bamboo artists to much of the world.