|Detail of three’s Tokyo Electric.|
A piece of Japan Society’s history is being restored this summer with the return of the long-dormant artist residency program. Throughout the month of July Japan Society hosts the Japanese artist collective three, which reshapes popular and mass culture into three dimensional sculpture, installations and video.
For much of their craft, three utilizes found plastic materials, from anime and video game figurines to soy sauce containers, to create dynamic, large-scale works of art. Highlighting many of three's recent works, design site Spoon & Tamago noted the social consciousness of their art:
Hailing from Fukushima, the artists were direct victims of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear fallout. In fact, their latest work "Tokyo Electric" was created for the 2nd anniversary of the earthquake. The imposing cubic structure stands over 3 meters high and is built to the same scale of the Fukushima nuclear power plant, explains the artists. It was made from 151,503 soy sauce containers – another symbolic number that happens to represent the number of displaced citizens.During their residency they will gather materials from around NYC to create new works of art. The public will have an opportunity to visit the group’s onsite studio and see the works in progress and meet the artists on July 27, before the final work is displayed on Japan Society’s A-Level in August and September.
Beginning in the 1950s Japan Society supported a handful of Japanese artists during their influential developmental stages, expanding American understanding of Japanese art and culture and providing an outlet for Japanese artists to hone their talent.
In 1959 one of the first such artists was Munakata Shiko, an illustrious printmaker who produced amazing, expressionistic woodblock prints. A grant from the Rockefeller Foundation allowed Japan Society to sponsor Munakata in the U.S. for six months, during which he gave four exhibitions and twenty lecture-demonstrations, according to the Society’s 1959 annual report. That same year he opened Munakata Shiko Gallery.
When the Japan Society Fellows Program was established in 1965, Kusama Yayoi became another artist supported by the Society. With a four month grant for study, exhibitions and travel, she created some of her iconic infinity series of paintings. In 2012 the Whitney presented a highly acclaimed and broad sweeping retrospective of Kusama’s work.
Japan Society’s Gallery Director, Miwako Tezuka, is passionate about the reappearance of the residency program and its continuation for years to come. “In my own experience,” she says, “any hands extended to help people learn and experience the broader world create ripple effects that can result in amazing accomplishments and lasting influence.”