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Opening Reception: Kokon Biannual: Spring 2020 at Koichi Yanagi Oriental Fine Arts

Koichi Yanagi Oriental Fine Arts held its annual exhibition in Spring 2020. The Kokon Biannual: Spring 2020 exhibition will be on view from March 13 to April 2 at the gallery located at 17 East 71st Street, 4th Floor, New York, New York.

The Kokon Biannual: Spring 2020 includes important and exciting works of Japanese art, featuring several recently-discovered works.

A large and luxurious pair of six-panel folding screens depicting Cherry Trees with Narcissus, Violets, and Dandelions (no. 1) from the 17th century offers a preview of the upcoming spring season. A new discovery, these paintings were once part of a set of sliding door panels that originally decorated a long-gone, sumptuous palace room.  The pair is attributed to a member of the Unkoku School, an atelier started by Unkoku Tōgan (1547-1618) in the Momoyama period. This magnificent pair of screens with its noble cherry trees reflects the dramatic style that Tōgan followers perpetuated during the early Edo period.

A well-exhibited and published painting of a Reclining Courtesan by Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849, no. 2) is also inscribed by the famous poet Santō Kyōden (1761-1816) with a poem inspired by the painting. This painting in ink and light colors by the celebrated artist best known for his wood-block print designs portrays the lady of the demimonde in a relaxed pose, rendered with little more than a few free and spontaneous strokes of the brush. This is a rare pairing of this artist known around the world and the renowned poet.

A large, dated painting of Sixteen Rakan by Kano Kazunobu (1816-1863, no. 3).  These sixteen men are Zen eccentrics, also known as Sixteen Rakan (Sanskrit, Arhat; Chinese, Luohan).  Their ordinary and extraordinary activities are captured in delicate, elegant brushstrokes in ink and gold. Kazunobu’s rather short life was devoted almost entirely to producing a set of one hundred hanging scrolls, depicting five hundred rakan and their attendants, for the Edo temple of Zōjōji. Only about ten of his paintings outside of this group are known to exist, and the large hanging scroll of Sixteen Rakan shown here is one of those truly rare works by Kazunobu.

A magnificent Momoyama period "Clog-shaped" Tea Bowl (no. 4) is of the Black Oribe type of Mino ware. This tea bowl is in a kutsugata (clog shape) and is rare in that it features two designs: a geometric design carved and glazed on one side and a kakine hedge-style design on the other.

An important Mizusashi (Fresh Water Jar, no. 5) is from a Karatsu kiln in the Hizen region. Originally made as a jar around 1590-1610s, it is now fitted with a lacquer lid to be used as a fresh water jar for the Tea Ceremony. It has a modern design of open circles in iron oxide on the glazed surface.

The very rare Mask of an Old Man (no. 6) was carved in the 14th century during the Kamakura to Nanbokucho periods. It is attributed to Ittōsai, one of the most important ancient Noh mask carvers, and there are only a few known examples of his masks in Japan. The extremely expressive face on the mask is of a very rare type with few, if any, comparative examples. It includes an inscription in ink and also an after carving testifying to its creator.


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