I visited Kyoko Ibe in her Kyoto studio in 1987 and it was a magical, inspirational opportunity. I've loved her work ever since...I deem her an international treasure for all.
Last week I was lucky enough to see Kyoko Ibe's solo show in the Japanese Pavillion wing of the LA County Museum of Art, (LACMA). One walks up the organically sinuous, spiraling walkway of Frank Gehry's design, past scrolls and screens that date back eight hundred years or more. The sumi brushstrokes and the sparing compositions have always called to my heart, not to mention that very particular 12thc. carved wood buddha statue that gives me chills every time I stand in front of it....which I do whenever I am in town.
The moving contemporary art of Kyoko Ibe is completely at home in this space of light and quietude, side by side with centuries of her heritage. There is a simplicity to the work that instantly draws one in and the poetic translation of her personal experiences resonate with me. It speaks of the transience of nature and relationships. In one work, "Once Upon a Time" Ibe has embedded letters from her mother and documents removed from the family Buddhist altar: documents that had accumulated within the altar since it was made in the 19th century. A museum label aptly describes this work to have"...an equivalently profound connection with past and present lives".
I loved what the museum wrote about her techniques in papermaking: "Ibe's purpose in making her works is to convey the miraculous strength of natural processes, allowing materials born of nature - plant fibers and water - to do their work with little direct intervention from her. Having decades of experience, she finds ways to encourage the pulp..." into her quietly moving, yet grandiose in scale works of paper.
"The power of nature is so often beyond what people can control. Harnessing that power is part of Ibe-san’s expression. Having laid bits of documents, chips of mica, flakes of gold or silver, recycled indigo paper, and other precious materials onto the paper screen, she then begins to apply paper pulp behind that surface. As she adds layers and layers of various colored pulps of recycled paper behind those, some dense with calligraphy so they take on the color of gray sumi, others pink from the vermillion of seals used to sign a document, colors merge onto the surface and fibers bind with the elements already applied. Layer upon layer of pulp is added with great quantities of water, and Ibe-san relinquishes control, allowing the water to rearrange paper fibers and draw pulp into various patterns. The power of water and the strength of plants inspire this work, while the people whose writings are merged into her paper she feels to be living again through traces of their words." - Hollis Goodall, curator, Japanese Art
This exhibition is part of a larger two year project entitled Recycling: washi tales, a performance installation that was commissioned by Krannert Center of the University of Illinois. If you had great fortune, you caught a performance entitled Recycling: Washi Tales, with four stories drawn from reuse of special paper, sets, and costume all by Ibe Kyoko on September 22 at Los Angeles County Museum of Art in conjunction with this exhibition of Kyoko Ibe's work. Through the whole performance washi is being made on stage. Hiromi Paper's (Santa Monica, CA) blog is just wonderful for those of us unable to have caught such an exciting production. Here is the link to their description of the LA performance with a more in depth description of the four stories and photos.
Washi Tales: The Paper Art of Ibe Kyoko
Pavilion for Japanese Art, Level 3
LA County Museum of Art
September 1, 2011–November 29, 2011
Black Sun being created. Images from Kyoko Ibe's website:
Want to know more about Japanese papermaking techniques? I found this wonderful photo compilation : they are photos of paper maker Tamura Tadashi in Kyoko Ibe’s studio (Nishiyama, Kyoto) and at the Awagami Factory (Shikoku) taken by Elise Thoron on Asian Cultural Council fellowship May-June, 2009.