This exhibition presents the intriguing results of contemporary trends in Japanese design and architecture, trends that go beyond issues of consumption and lifestyle to express more fundamental values. The works on display testify to Japan's distinctive fusion of disciplines, offering a glimpse at a vibrant society in which artists of all kinds are crossing the boundaries between "high" and "low" culture to create in variety of spheres.

Born out of a dynamic integration of cultures, modern Japanese society has adopted a Western, largely American, model of popular culture while bringing together traditional Japanese aesthetics and futuristic technologies. The highly stylized electronic goods of manufacturers such as Sony and Sharp and the minimalist products of retail outlets like MUJI (literally, "no brand') are offset by the progressive works of a small group of architects and designers such as Toyo Ito and Reiko Sudo, who achieved international "stardom" in the 1990s following the phenomenal success of Issey Miyake in the 1980s. Today an avant-garde of young architects and designers with a different agenda - Atelier Bow Wow, MIKAN, Tokujin Yoshioka, and Kosuke Tsumura, for example - is emerging

The digital and Internet revolution has had enormous impact on communication, commerce, and production processes, and with this new global millennium has come a reassessment of social, ethical, and aesthetic values. Japan, like other countries around the world, has recently seen a renaissance in architecture and design in which questions like recycling (of ideas and images as well as materials) and human intervention are given a new twist. In architecture, not only is the social role of the architect being redefined, but the considerations of urban planners and developers are being challenged, as the city comes to be seen in a new way. In product design, Naoto Fukasawa and Tokujin Yoshioka are representative of a trend to reinvent our "culture of objects" and express concerns that transcend ephemeral fashion and mere style.

At the same time, the effects of technology are seen in every sphere. Elephant Design's innovative concept of e-commerce and Issey Miyake and Dai Fujiwara's use of technological wizardry in the "A-POC" collection reconcile two seemingly incompatible forces: mass production and customization. In the futuristic buildings of Toyo Ito, the distinction between real and virtual becomes blurred. And f or the generation born after 1970, cyberspace is the natural place in which to communicate, regardless of cultural divides and national boundaries. The free-spirited creators of today constantly seek out fresh territory and partnerships, striving to come up with something new in a world where ideas meet each other on open and equal ground.

Curator: Alex Ward Assistant curator:Osnat Sirkin
Consultant and coordination: Nobuko Shimuta, Nippon Design Center Inc., Tokyo

The exhibition was made possible by the donors to the Museum's exhibition Fund: Melva Buksbaum & Reymond J. Learsy, Aspen, Colorado; Hanno D. Mott, New York; The Nash Family Foundation, New York.

 


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