April 3, 2013

Japanese Lacquer, Jacqueline Avant Collection at Crow Collection of Asian Art, Dallas, USA

Gold on Black: Japanese Lacquer from the Jacqueline Avant Collection
Crow Collection of Asian Art, Dallas, USA
Through September 15, 2013

Showcasing the delicate beauty of Japanese lacquer dating from the early-17th to the early-20th century, Gold on Black: Japanese Lacquer from the Jacqueline Avant Collection on view at the Crow Collection of Asian Art in Dallas, USA, features over 40 Japanese lacquer items that would have been used primarily for arts and entertainment purposes. 

Ancient Japanese Lacquer
Writing Box (suzuribako) with design of Ono no Komachi, Japan, circa 1800. 
Lacquer, gold, silver, carved purple glass, black lacquered metal, gold metal on wood, suzu (tin alloy) rims
Courtesy The Jacqueline Avant Collection, Photograph Susan Einstein, Los Angeles.

Californian Japanese Art Collector Jacqueline Avant’s interest in collecting exquisite lacquer works used for poetry writing, poetry matching games, enjoyment of food or smoking, ceremonial display, wear, or personal care, such as boxes for combs, mirrors, tooth blackening powder, or incense, comprise the majority of the pieces selected for this exhibition. Also on view are boxes to hold objects of religious devotion, such as Buddhist holy texts (sutras), and even weapons for self-defense, including a decorated baton or knife.

“The Japanese have long been attributed with bringing the art of lacquer to its highest technical and aesthetic development,” says Crow Collection of Asian Art Executive Director Amy Lewis Hofland. “However, Japanese lacquer remains a subject rarely presented in American museums. When we learned of these works we knew our audiences would love the beauty and history of this painstakingly refined art form. It is a natural fit for the Crow Collection.”

Many works featured in Gold on Black originated from the dowries of feudal lord families, with family crests recording marriages of power and influence. Others were collected to delight wealthy merchants and reflect their personal tastes in dress and activities, from tea to smoking or composing poetry.

Recent finds suggest that lacquer has been employed in Japan as a protective film for at least 11,000 years. The lacquer is painstakingly harvested from twenty-year-old cultivated urushi trees; each tree is bled for its sap, producing less than a cup of liquid and giving up its life in the process of harvest. The lacquer is then filtered and applied in about thirty thin layers to a paulownia wood or lacquered hemp core. After each layer is polymerized in a humidor and then sanded, the upper layers are sprinkled with gold or silver powders and flecks to create designs. The final coat of clear lacquer is then ground down to reveal the metallic design. The care and skill required for application of both ground lacquer layers and design, and the rarity and expense of materials, meant that lacquer work was the most revered of family treasures in Japan, just as silver would have been in Europe or the Americas.

Hollis Goodall, curator of Japanese art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, selected the works featured in Gold on Black: Japanese Lacquer from the Jacqueline Avant Collection

China Through the Lens of John Thomson remains on view along with Peninsulas and Dragon Tails: Southeast Asian Art from the Crow Collection and with the acclaimed collection of Tantric sculpture from Trammell S. Crow’s private collection.

Trammell & Margaret Crow Collection of Asian Art Website: www.crowcollection.org