Decorative Arts and Design
On View: Decorative Art, 20th-Century Decorative Arts, 4th Floor
Across the world, modernisms evolved in distinctive ways, shaped by the social, cultural, and historical conditions of their time and place. In early twentieth-century Japan, for example, concerns about the country’s ongoing industrialization and modernization prompted a reappraisal of simple handicrafts like the bowl and lacquered bento box seen here. Led by the philosopher Soetsu Yanagi, the Mingei (or folk craft) movement shared affinities with the nineteenth-century British Arts and Crafts movement. Mingei, which continues today, was highly influential in its advocacy of humble, anonymously crafted objects made for everyday use.
Concurrently, designers such as Ubunji Kidokoro were adapting new ideas and forms using traditional materials and techniques. In 1937, as part of the Mitsukoshi department store’s efforts to promote “modern” furnishings for the home—at a time when sitting in Japanese domestic interiors was mostly done on tatami (woven rush) mats—Kidokoro presented a cantilevered bamboo chair. It was possibly modeled on the Finnish designer Alvar Aalto’s Model 31 Chair (seen nearby). Later, Sori Yanagi, the son of Soetsu Yanagi, combined industrial production with Mingei aesthetic principles in designs like the Butterfly Stool, now one of the most recognizable examples of mid-twentieth-century Japanese design.
Bent bamboo plywood
31 3/4 x 22 3/4 x 31 1/2 in. (80.6 x 57.8 x 80 cm) (show scale)
On bottom of back base: Worn and illegible oval paper label
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William E. Baker and John D. Rockefeller III, by exchange
Cantilevered armchair in bent bamboo. The arm/leg on each side is a reverse 'C' shape of bent bamboo, a separate reinforced section in bamboo and plywood(?) is placed at each end of the reverse 'C' at the rear of the legs and near the top rail of the chair. The seat is made of several long, individual pieces of bent bamboo, bent into a compressed 'O' at the top of the chair descending down the chair to the front stretcher, the seat area is reinforced underneath with a single bamboo support at front and back; these bent bamboo pieces are held in place by a row of screws, two rows of screws placed at the top rail of the chair and a single row attached to the seat supports and attached to the front stretcher.
Ubunji Kidokoro (Japanese, 1910-1945). Armchair, Designed 1937. Bent bamboo plywood, 31 3/4 x 22 3/4 x 31 1/2 in. (80.6 x 57.8 x 80 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William E. Baker and John D. Rockefeller III, by exchange, 2011.58.2. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, CUR.2011.58.2.jpg)
. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2011
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