MWPAI hosts Kimono! The Artistry of Itchiku Kubota
UTICA — “There is no image or words that can do them justice. You have to see them in person.”
That is how Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute President and CEO Anna Tobin D’Ambrosio describes “Kimono! The Artistry of Itchiku Kubota,” which is showing at MWPAI beginning today.
The exhibition of meticulously crafted kimono by Japanese artist Itchiku Kubota runs through Sept. 16 and marks the first time the collection has been on American soil in close to a decade.
The first exhibitions of the kimono took place in 1977 in Tokyo. In 1994-95, the kimono were placed in a Kubota-designed and financed museum in Kawaguchi-ko, Japan, where they currently are showcased.
Over the years, the exhibition has traveled to 10 countries. In 1996 it was shown at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. The kimono were displayed again in the United States in 2008 in San Diego and in Ohio in 2009.
“We’re always working to offer unparalleled art exhibitions to the region,” D’Ambrosio said. “We’re really excited to be able to host this exhibition and all of the programming we offer around it.”
The display is nearly 7 feet in height and embellished with gold and silver leaf embroidery and ink painting. Each kimono took close to a year to make and could have been dyed up to 30 times.
Many of the kimono were created as a series and are installed together to create a 27-foot-long portrait in reverence for the landscape and the universe.
The kimono are mostly landscape- and nature-based. One significant piece is that of Mount Fuji in Japan.
The institute is showcasing 48 kimono — a partial collection of Kubota’s kimono.
The kimono — which are all considered over sized — were handmade by Kubota. Though he had an overall image in mind when creating the kimono, each piece was crafted separately and then stitched together.
“They were not meant to be worn,” D’Ambrosio said. “They were made to be works of art.”
The pieces are made using fabric created in the Tsujigahana style. The silk used for this style, however, no longer was produced in 1937 when Kubota viewed a rare 16th century fabric using the technique. No instructions existed how to recreate the style either.
Because of this — in 1962 — Kubota began developing his own style by combining his own vision with Tsujigahana. This new style was called Itchiku Tsujigahana.
D’Ambrosio said MWPAI has planned to showcase the exhibit for more than two years. The institute worked with Dr. Jacquie Atkins, who had worked with the collection several times and is the guest curator.
Atkins helped bring the exhibition to MWPAI — which included refining the exhibition checklist and bringing an associate of the Kubota Museum in Japan to visit the institute.
The museum also is showcasing two parallel exhibitions. The first is landscapes in Japanese woodblock prints from the museum’s collection. The woodblock prints showcase Japan’s transition from the 19th to the 20th century, D’Ambrosio said.
The second is called “Global Splendor” and will feature cultural ceremonial clothing. The clothing comes from area refugees, D’Ambrosio said.
Admission to “Kimono!” is free to MWPAI members. General admission for nonmembers is $12, and $6 for students and children younger than 12.