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Hard Bodies: Contemporary Japanese Lacquer Sculpture

October 7, 2017 - June 24, 2018
Target Wing
Free Exhibition

It’s an art nearly as old as civilization itself. Since the Neolithic era, artisans in East Asia have coated bowls, cups, boxes, baskets, and other utilitarian objects with a natural polymer distilled from the sap of the rhus verniciflua, known as the lacquer tree. Lacquerware was—and still is—prized for its sheen, a lustrous beauty that artists learned to accentuate over the centuries with inlaid gold, silver, mother-of-pearl, and other precious materials.

Since the late 1980s, this tradition has been challenged. A small but enterprising circle of lacquer artists have pushed the medium in entirely new and dynamic directions by creating large-scale sculptures, works that are both conceptually innovative and superbly exploitive of lacquer’s natural virtues. Thirty works by 16 artists comprise the first-ever comprehensive exhibition of contemporary Japanese lacquer sculpture. They have all been drawn from the Clark Collections at Mia, the only collection in the world to feature this extraordinary new form.


Generous support for this program is provided by the Gale Family Endowment. Named by a generous gift from Alfred P. Gale, the Gale Family Endowment supports Mia’s efforts to reach a spectrum of audiences through a variety of programs, events, materials, exhibitions, and publications focused on its renowned collection of Asian Art.

Aoki Chie, born 1981 BODY 09-1 "Impact," 2009 Lacquer and hemp cloth on foam polystyrene 37 3/4 × 43 5/16 × 74 13/16 in. (95.89 × 110.01 × 190.02 cm) Gift of the Clark Center for Japanese Art & Culture 2013.29.1339