Saturday, May 13, 2017

EXHIBITIONS: An embarrassment of Modernist riches on display from spring to fall, 2017 (Part One)

Modernist design and technology will be highlighted in museums and galleries all over the country this summer -- so much so that I plan to write this posting in three sections, covering first the Northeast, then the Heartland, and eventually Denver's newly renovated but always eccentric Kirkland Museum. Below is a small sample of what's on from now through October, in New York, New Jersey, Boston and Washington, DC. Stay tuned for sections two and three.

 The splendid Queen Mary ocean liner, built in Clydebank, Scotland

“Ocean Liners: Glamour, Speed and Style” at the Peabody Essex Museum, 161 Essex Street; Salem, MA. The mid-19th century through the mid-20th century was the heyday of these Art Deco icons. Nearly 200 paintings, sculptural works, models, furniture, textiles, photographs and other memorabilia will illustrate the design, technology, personality and opulence of these notable ships. We won't see the likes of these beauties again. Show runs through Oct. 9.

Above: One of many sitting rooms on the Queen Mary. This one is meant 
for guests waiting to enter the ballroom. 

A smaller, yet eye-popping exhibition of interest to Modernism aficionados will be on at PEM through June 11. "WOW: World of Wearable Art" is a zany display of haberdashery that might be suitable for a costume ball on Mars.

For 25 years, New Zealand has hosted an annual design competition that challenges sculptors, costume designers, textile artists and creators of just about anything to explore the boundary between fashion and art, and to "get art off the walls and onto the body." The WOW World of Wearable Art competition is the country's largest art event, drawing an audience of 50,000 to its live runway show.

PEM's exhibition presents 32 ensembles deemed the competition's "most unique, spectacular and outlandish wearable artworks." Materials range from wood and aluminum to fiberglass and taxidermy, "celebrating lavish creativity and pushing the limits of wearability." PEM is the exclusive U.S. east coast venue for this exciting and mind-blowing show.

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Above: Matisse's “Interior With an Etruscan Vase” 
“Matisse in the Studio” at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. An exploration of this singular artist’s creativity brings together 36 color-saturated paintings and 50 other artworks with the treasured textiles, pitchers, masks and other intriguing objects he was inspired by. Many of the latter are on loan from private collections (sculptures and masks from the various Islamic, Asian, and African traditions that Matisse admired), and are being publicly exhibited outside of France for the first time. They include a pewter jug, a chocolate maker given as a wedding present, and an Andalusian vase found in Spain. Show runs through July 9.

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Chromium-plated Manhattan cocktail service, 1934, Norman Bel Geddes,
“The Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s.” at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York. The bold, streamlined designs that characterized the exuberant Roaring Twenties era are highlighted here in a show of 350 pieces of jewelry, fashion, furniture, textiles, paintings, posters and other items. (See Mad for Mod's posting "Visions of Art Deco and beyond, April 19, 2017) Show runs through August 20.

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Work by the ever-popular Henri Matisse, and examples of his enduring influence over 20th century art, will be on display at the Montclair (NJ) Art Museum, 3 South Mountain Avenue through June 18. “Matisse and American Art” demonstrates the many generations of American artists who have taken their cues from Matisse to experiment with bold, jazzy colors, undulating lines, geometric shapes and a wide variety of abstract subjects. These include Maurice Prendergast, Stuart Davis, Marek Kamienski, Andy Warhol and Faith Ringgold. This exhibition includes 19 works by Matisse and 44 by Americans.

 Matisse's "Scissors art" has inspired generations of children to make cut-out collages.

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Our earth is only one polka dot among a
million stars in the cosmos. Polka dots are
a way to infinity.
                                                                                   –Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama, "Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity," 2009
Kusama’s Peep Show or Endless Love Show, 1966. Hexagonal mirrored 
room and electric lights.  (No longer extant.)

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden on Independence Avenue
in Washington, DC will present the traveling exhibition “Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors” through May 14. This intriguing and whimsical show features six of acclaimed artist and novelist Kusama’s immersive “Infinity Mirror Rooms,” as well as many other signature paintings, collages and works on paper from the early 1950s to the present. Several  large-scale paintings that have never before been shown in the United States will be highlighted as well.

Yayoi Kusama with recent works in Tokyo, 2016.  Photo by Tomoaki Makino


Coming next ... the Heartland
What's on in spring and summer 2017 

Sunday, May 7, 2017

DESTINATIONS: Morikami Museum & Gardens: The essence of Japan in South Florida

With so much anti-immigration language floating around these days,
not to mention words like "deportation" and "internment" being used by certain
heinous political figures, I thought it might be time to revisit this posting
about the Morikami Gardens and Wendy Maruyama's striking 
"Tag Project" exhibited there last year. 

 Photo courtesy of

I was recently drawn to visit the elegant Morikami Museum and Gardens, in Delray, Florida, by a traveling design exhibition about the internment of 120,000 Japanese people living in the US during World War II. Called Executive Order 9066, the show is a powerful, wise and timely evocation of a disgraceful chapter in American history. I will describe it in greater detail below, but first, some highlights from a brief but most enjoyable walk through 16 acres of Morikami's enchanting gardens ...

Link here to download a map with descriptions of highlighted stopping points 

Karesansui ("dry landscape") Late Rock Garden
photo by Judy Polan
In this gardening style, rocks rather than plants
have primary focus, and are arranged in a 
bed of raked gravel.


 Morikami Falls January 2016

all photos by Michael Schonbach
unless otherwise noted

Hiraniwa Flat Garden 
(17th - 18th C. Zen pebble garden)
Evolving from late rock gardens, flat gardens make more
liberal use of plantings, and often incorporate outside elements
through a design technique called "borrowed scenery" (shakkei).

I Wandered Lonely ...
Taken on the bridge to Yamato Island

The Morikami Gardens were a gift to Palm Beach County from 80-year-old Japanese immigrant George Sukeji Morikami. He donated his land 
with the provision that it become a park preserving 
the memory of the Yamato Colony in his home country, 
and also with the hope of strengthening the bond between
 American and Japanese culture.

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Time out to share a Bento Box at the museum's Cornell Café
A beautifully presented assortment of chicken teriyaki, salmon 
teriyaki, dumplings, rice, Asian eggplant, shrimp, golden tofu, 
egg roll and sushi roll pieces... yum!

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... then on to the Wendy Maruyama exhibition
Executive Order 9066

on view through Sunday, January 31, 2016
Above: Members of the Mochida family awaiting an evacuation bus 
in Hayward, Calif. Mochida operated a nursery and five greenhouses 
in Eden Township. He raised snapdragons and sweetpeas. 
Photograph by Dorothea Lange

The artist
Professor Emeritus and Program Head of Furniture Design 
Program at San Diego State College
photo courtesy of

Wendy Maruyama, a third-generation Japanese American, is a furniture maker,
artist and educator who has long been interested in issues of social justice.
Her multi-part exhibition Executive Order 9066 comemmorates
the 70th anniversary of the closing of the last detention camp 
where, during World War II, approximately 120,000 Japanese Americans 
were interned. There were 10 camps spread throughout California, 
Colorado, Arizona, Utah and Wyoming. 
 Two-thirds of the evacuees were American citizens.
Their lives were shattered because they "looked like the enemy."

The Tag Project

The Tag Project consists of tens of thousands of reproductions of the paper identification tags that internees were forced to wear when they were being relocated. Although the tags' purpose was benign -- to keep members of families and their belongings from being separated -- they caused  humiliation and distress to the evacuees. The tags are grouped into ten tree-like bundles and suspended from the ceiling, each bundle representing one of the camps. The vast number of people displaced by FDR's executive order of 1942 is devastatingly represented here.

Maruyama obtained  lists of evacuees from US government
databases, and -- with the help of hundreds of volunteers --
 created exact replicas of the tags for each. The paper was dipped in 
coffee to give it a brownish, weathered look.

 The Aso Family -- grandfather Sakutaro, 70,
Shigeo, 3, and his brother, Sadao Bill, 6 
Photograph by Dorothea Lange

Dressed in her best clothes, Mae Yanagi, 7, waits with her pregnant mother, 
Kinuye Yanagi, right, to be bused to housing in the Tanforan, CA
Assembly Center by the War Relocation Authority.
Photograph by Dorothea Lange

Artifacts from detainees are poignantly displayed in the exhibition.
People were allowed to take with them only what they could carry by hand. 
Below, lost suitcases and handmade bamboo 
fishing poles (mounted on red wall).  
Photo courtesy of

Life in the detention centers was grim and disorienting. One pursuit that the 
detainees were allowed, once they had gained the trust of their guards,
was to create handcrafted decorative and functional objects.
Many prisoners, years later, attributed their woodworking, cooking,
metalcrafting and cooking with alleviating excruciating boredom and despair.

     Above: Paper flowers

Art objects made at the camps were known as "gaman",
a Zen term meaning "to persevere, to endure the seemingly
unbearable with patience and dignity." 

Baby bird pins; metal, pigment and wood, 1946
Made in Poston, AZ by Yukie Goto, as a gift to fellow internee Yone Yushioka

            Right: Copper sprinkler can
             Made in Poston III camp
             by Kasuke Hashiguchi

Below: Girl's Day (Hinamatsuri), wood and tar paper, Wendy Moruyama, 2011

This wall sculpture speaks eloquently of the detainee experience.

For more information about Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens and
upcoming exhibitions, link here.

This posting was originally published on January 29, 2016.

ODD BITS: Mad for Mod readership spikes this month! Thank you!!

I just wanted to let you know, loyal friends and readers, that Mad for Mod's readership has spiked over the past month or so (could it be spring fever?) We've just reached a figure of 65,000 viewers! Please don't hesitate to make suggestions as to what general topics or arts destinations you'd like to see me write more about over the upcoming year. You can write a comment at the bottom of any specific article, or send me an email at Many thanks for your interest and loyalty.