Exhibitions, like our most recent, Forging Shadows, are an intersection of an artisan’s career work and a curator’s point of view. Each artisan’s breath of work is so large and varied that a variety of exhibitions can be created with an artist. As curators it is important to be able to communicate why we make the decisions we make to best represent the collection and concept.
Takayoshi Narita’s collection is composed of two materials – wrought-iron which is matte black in color, and stainless steel, which is matte silver in color. Displaying his wares and preparing for the exhibition proved to be both challenging and enjoyable. The challenge was to represent a wide enough range of items in our gallery, in solely two materials. Typically, our artists create works in one specific genre, like flatware or teaware. But Narita-san creates cookware, tableware, flatware, display items and hardware. To be able to give each group the attention it deserves, but also create a cohesive exhibition was at the forefront of our thoughts. We chose to switch our fixtures to a long, low center table to focus on all the specialty cookware selected for the exhibition, flanked by his tableware on our shelves in purely black and purely silver areas. The flatware was styled with the tableware pieces, sometimes in a contrasting manner with quiet flower vases hanging, and positioned throughout the exhibition. We thought the dynamics of the presentation would prove to be both informative and best represent his works.
Color and materials aside, what struck us immediately about Narita-san’s works was the texture created by the continual heating and hammering of his metal pieces. We curated incredibly simple forms because we felt the dominant focus should be on these unique textures and we chose not to select pieces with elaborate edges or decorative elements for this reason.
Each exhibition takes a long time to coordinate because typically a solo artisan is crafting the pieces individually. Often they are making works right up until their flight to New York. The day of the opening reception is always relieving as it feels like the culmination of months of work and preparation for both the artisan and us. As tradition goes, the artisan usually comes the morning of the opening to look over the way the exhibition has been installed. We were delighted to find out that Narita-san said it was the best display of his collection he has ever seen.
We felt a video would best showcase the process from our point of view. Here is a glimpse into the final touches of the exhibition installation leading up to when the first guests arrived on opening night.
Videography: Owen Smith-Clark