KAKISHIBU + GOLD
June 25 - July 20, 2002
Robert Kushner, who emerged in the early 1970s as a performance artist whose costumes were as important as the performance, was a founder of the Pattern and Decoration movement of that era. In the early 1980s his primary materials were acrylic paint on unstretched fabric, but he turned away from pattern and painted the human figure from live models. In 1986 he turned to more conventional oil painting on canvas concentrating on flowers which he has continued into the present.
For his third exhibition at Bellas Artes, Kushner will be showing a new series which represents a unique synthesis, both geographical and conceptual, of Kushner's interest in combining Eastern and Western traditions and techniques.
Kakishibu is a uniquely Japanese contribution to the world of paper. Traditionally Kakishibu is used to paper the walls of tea houses, where the desired effect combines the qualities of age, simplicity and rusticity. It is considered extremely durable and permanent. These sheets of Kakishibu were handmade from Kozo fiber in Shikoku, Japan. Originally they were white. Then coats of fermented persimmon juice were applied in layers, staining the white sheets dark. The resulting color is a rich terra cotta shade that gradually becomes darker after prolonged exposure to light. A Japanese would not apply an image to this paper as it is valued for its controlled but unexpected variations of surface and color.
Kushner painted the floral elements on the Kakishibu during a residency at OXY Gallery in Osaka in May, 2001. The flowers selected for this project are those classically associated by the Japanese with spring time: peony, iris, spring grasses. After being exhibited in Osaka in this first stage, the sheets were shipped to New York, where Kushner began to apply many varying shades of gold and silver leaf. The rich earthy color of the background as well as the colors depicting the flowers complement and harmonize with the spectrum of gold and coated silver leaf.
Kushner has exhibited extensively nationally and internationally. His work is in the collections of many museums including the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., the Tate Gallery in London and the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.