Gajin Fujita and a ukiyo-e legend

July 19, 2012

Hopefully you’ve had a chance by now to enjoy the phenomenal work of Gajin Fujita in our galleries. His unique use of traditional Japanese and street art elements result in pieces with eye-popping depth. Beginning with gold- and silver-leaf panels that are subsequently tagged, Fujita painstakingly creates images with finely detailed stencils and spray paint in several layers to create these dynamic pieces.

Gajin Fujita's "Golden Boy After Kuniyoshi"

Gajin Fujita’s “Golden Boy After Kuniyoshi”

In his interview published in our exhibition brochure, Fujita described how he has been drawn to Japanese woodblock prints like those in Masterpieces of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi. “The strong patterning in woodblock prints is a draw for me, like in Yoshitoshi’s series of firefighters,” he told our curator Bridget Bray. “But the whole range of time periods and woodblock print artists, like Utamaro, Kuniyoshi and Yoshitoshi, are interesting to me as well.” In fact, one of Fujita’s works directly references Yoshitoshi’s master, Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1862) (at left).

In this piece, Golden Boy After Kuniyoshi, Fujita tells the well-known tale of Kintaro (“Golden Boy”) who was raised by a hag on Mount Ashigara and possessed amazing strength. There are many conflicting stories about how Kintaro came to live in the mountains– some say his mother was forced to flee and abandoned him there to be discovered by the mountain hag, while others suggest that his mother and the hag are the same person. Legends tell of his childhood battles with demons and monsters as well as his friendships with the mountain animals.

After defeating a demon terrorizing his region, a samurai became impressed by Kintaro’s prowess and brought him to Kyoto. There, Kintaro (who had since changed his name to Kintoki) learned martial arts and eventually led the samurai’s retainers.

As Fujita references, Kintaro was popular in the time of Kuniyoshi and Yoshitoshi– both artists did several works with the character throughout their careers. In fact, you can see several examples in our Yoshitoshi exhibition! The figure remains popular today, present in manga, anime and video games, and is often identifiable by his trademark ax and clothing with the character for “gold.”

To learn more about Gajin Fujita’s work and influences, don’t miss his Artist’s Talk on Sunday, August 5 at 2 p.m.! ~CM


Status Update: Korean Gallery in Progress

July 13, 2012

As you may remember from a previous post or your last visit, the renovation of our new Korean Gallery is well underway. But before we get into the fantastic Korean art that will soon be on display, let’s take a peek at how the upgrades are coming along.

We’re always looking for new ways to go green at Pacific Asia Museum. Obvious upgrades like our new HVAC system help us keep operation costs down to devote more of our funds to art conservation, exhibitions and programs while reducing our carbon footprint. But there are also other, less obvious ways to minimize our environmental impact in a cost-effective way, and as we renovate our permanent galleries, we’ll be taking advantage of a lot of new technologies!

LED lampTo keep on top of innovations, our curatorial and collections departments have to keep up on their reading. Two recent reports connected to the Getty Conservation Institute have helped exhibition production manager John Cline determine how we can best use advances in LED lighting instead of traditional halogen lamps as he designs the exhibition space and how it will be lit. While LED technology has been around for a while, it has only recently approximated the color of natural daylight, which is optimal for viewing art. Because of this development, museums are now more interested in the advantages of LEDs: they produce less heat, use less energy, and last longer. This is due to the way LEDs produce light: it’s a process called electroluminescence, which produces visible light much more efficiently than a traditional filament, meaning less heat is produced and less energy is wasted. Filaments create light more widely across the spectrum, meaning that energy is spent creating light we can’t see as well as excess heat. So while we’re using less energy to keep the galleries lit, we’ll also be using less energy to cool them!

Aside from the green benefits, LEDs will help us preserve the artwork in the galleries as well. Light can significantly damage artwork over time, particularly paintings and textiles, which is why we often rotate such pieces off view in regular rotations. Invisible light including ultraviolet light is a particular problem, and since LEDs don’t produce much invisible light at either end of the spectrum, they can help minimize damage over the long term.

However, all of this effort going into lighting design has a very specific end goal: to use the lighting to shape the gallery spaces and enrich the visitors’ interaction with the art on view. “Lighting may not be something all visitors notice, but it’s a central concern for the exhibition team because of its power to transform an exhibition experience,” said curator Bridget Bray. “When it’s done poorly, it’s distracting and takes away from the enjoyment of the art.” So now that you know all about our new, more efficient lighting, take a minute to look closely at the lighting that will be used in the new Korean Gallery. ~CM

Into the Depths…

July 7, 2012

Last Thursday, our Plum Blossom and Associate members gathered for the annual Behind the Scenes Tour. Each year, our curatorial and collections staff takes these members through key areas of the museum not open to the public where our collection is stored. These tours are also an exciting opportunity for these members to see how our storage facilities are upgraded over time as a result of donor generosity and technological innovations.

This year, the departments chose to highlight how the museum stores and cares for its Asian ceramics collection. The evening began with a reception in the museum’s courtyard, followed by a tour of the new Space Saver Four-Post mobile compact storage unit for an up close and personal look at how it works, what ceramics it protects, how it protects them and how they’re organized.  As we mentioned in a previous post, an important part of the work in this area is ensuring that objects are properly stored in archival-quality boxes, tissue and foam padding. In addition to the newly deinstalled Chinese ceramics mentioned in the previous post, they’re revisiting many other stored ceramics for periodic conservation. Above, our registrar Annie demonstrates to our members how the staff uses brushes and even an adapted vacuum to surface-clean each object before repacking. It’s a time-consuming process, but an essential one! The whole experience was a good reminder that even if an object isn’t on view, it still requires a lot of time and attention.

Want more behind-the-scenes action? Check out our previous posts on the making of our kimono exhibition and the conservation of our roundel. Want to learn more about the membership levels that came to this event? Check out the Membership section of our website. ~CM