The exhibition celebrates one of the most distinctive and compelling aspects of Japanese art: the depiction of animals. Underpinned by Japan’s unique spiritual heritage of Shintō and Buddhism, the Japanese reverence for nature — and the place of animals within that realm — is expressed in sculpture, painting, lacquer-work, ceramics, metalwork, cloisonné, and woodblock prints.
Lions, dogs, horses, oxen, cats, fish, insects, birds, dragons, phoenixes — animals warm and cold-blooded, real and imaginary — are meticulously and beautifully rendered in myriad works from ancient 6th-century clay sculpture to contemporary art. Arranged in themes such as Zodiac Animals, Animals from Nature, Religion, Myth and Folklore, and Leisure, the exhibition draws heavily from LACMA’s permanent collection and includes masterpieces from Japanese and American public and private collections, some of which will be shown for the first time.
For several years, Mizuno has lived on Fort Mountain Ranch in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The intense beauty of the idyllic forest has inspired the artist’s latest body of work, which includes interventions across the property using ceramics, fallen trees, and manzanita shrubs removed to avert fires.
For “Harmony,” he transplants elements of this immersive environment to Los Angeles. “Tea House,” like an earlier one he built on the ranch, is his interpretation of the traditional Japanese structure. Its open, organic form balances the seclusion needed to experience the tea ceremony with the powerful presence of the natural surroundings.
Around the tea house, Mizuno places a series of sculptures. Embedded in wood and on the ground, his ceramic water drops and tea bowls are painted with meditative repetitions of Japanese kanji such as yui (connect) and wa (harmony). These concepts reflect his ongoing interest in the communicative properties of trees and water.
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