Exhibited within Ca’ Pesaro, Kuroki’s art not only suggests stimulating links with the ancient works in the collections of the Museum of Oriental Art, but also serves as an occasion to reflect upon how a contemporary artist from the Far East approches the cultural traditions that form his artistic background.
Kōrin and his refined Rimpa decoration are the inspiration for a whole series of objects – lamps, vases, screens and incense-burners – produced in layers of glass decorated with flowers and gold leaf. As for Hiroshige’s nineteenth-century Stations, they have inspired not only remarkable panels that are veritable ‘landscapes’ in glass , but also lanterns, vases, boxes, furniture, lamps and screens. In each one of these pieces, the theme of ‘the view’ is expressed in an unusual three-dimensional form, with the artist’s skilful working of his mateirals splendidly echoing the light and nuanced colour tones to be found in famous ukiyo-e prints.
All of the works on display are the product of a complex and varied working process, with the glass being treated in a variety of ways and adorned with inlaid leaves of gold and platinium, in keeping with the makie tradition of Japanese lacquer-work.
The echoes of the past within the exhibition are amplified by the presence in Room 10 (on the first floor) of two early-nineteenth-century silk robes from the collections of the Museum of Oriental Art. Specially chosen for their close relation to the works on display, these are adorned with an embroidered peacock motif and painted decoration depicting two of the Tōkaidō stations (Kuwana and Kambara); thus they are surprisingly close in theme to the works Kuroki has created in glass. Also on display from the Museum of Oriental Art are some original Hiroshige woodcuts from one of the most beautiful Tōkaidō series printed on vertical sheets.
Through his dedicated pursuit of perfection in the use of a material that combines pure transparency with infinite possibilities of form and colour, Kuroki has achieved absolute technical mastery of his medium. The result is sort of atemporal aesthetics, in which the highest traditions of Japanese art are explored in a way that goes beyond history to archetypes themselves. In effect, this is vision as initiation, with history and the past finding expression in new and different forms and materials.