May 25 – September 7, 2014

Curator: Michael Schuster
Installation: Lynne Najita
Artist-in-Residence: Suzanne Ross
Consultants: Suzanne Ross, Yoshihisa Oka (President, Nosaku Lacquerware Co., LTD)

Lacquer—glossy, durable, resistant to water and heat, has been used in Asia for more than 7,000 years. Artisans have created an extraordinary range of items using this sap from trees to cover wood, bamboo,metal, and ceramics. Utensils, bowls, water carriers, paintings, ritual items, objets d’art, boxes, containers, furniture, toys, building interiors, jewelry— the range is vast and the techniques multiple. Lacquer comes from the sap of trees from the cashew and sumac family. These trees are cultivated in East Asia, Southeast Asia, and South Asia. East Asian lacquer is traditionally obtained from the Chinese lacquer tree, Toxicodendron vernicifluum, while in Southeast Asia, the Burmese lacquer tree, Gluta usitata, is the most widely cultivated.

Lacquer work was one of the earliest industrial arts of Asia. Although highly developed in India, it was the Chinese who spread the technique of inlaying lacquer with ivory, jade, coral, or abalone. Artistic techniques spread to Korea, then to Japan, where they took new forms, notably gold lacquer work. Fine Asian lacquer ware may have more than 40 coats, each being dried and smoothed with a whetstone before application of the next. The ware may be decorated in color, gold, or silver and enhanced by modeled reliefs, engraving, or carving. Buddhist monasteries encouraged the art and now preserve some of the oldest pieces extant. Decorative elements most often found in Asian lacquer traditions include inlaid semi-precious stones,mirror glass, gold leaf, engravings, and applied reliefs.

Many Asian countries have perfected the craft of making lacquer artifacts, both for utilitarian and aesthetic purposes. Japan and Myanmar (Burma) have developed the craft into to a highly respected and creative art form. The exhibition features exquisite utensils,musical instruments, traditional tea preparation services, religious manuscript, dishes, and paintings. Although this exhibition focuses particularly on works fromJapan and Myanmar, it also displays items from China, Korea, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand. The exhibition demonstrates how works are formed, and illustrates the process and artistry involved in making each piece. Suzanne Ross, lacquer artist and teacher from Wajima, Japan, will be in residence for ten days to help celebrate the opening of the exhibition.

Click here to download the exhibition handout.

Click here to view a selection of items from the exhibition.

This exhibition is made possible by generous support from Hawaiian Airlines and Aston Hotels & Resorts.