Divine Spark Exhibition Guide

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The Crow Museum of Asian Art of The University of Texas at Dallas is pleased to present a focused multi-year exhibition series dedicated to making visible the work of emerging and established Texas-based contemporary Asian women artists. The artists presented in this program focus on contemporary issues both in Texas and abroad, giving voice to complex, humanized stories of identity, place, tradition and modernity. Dallas-based artist Kana Harada has forged her own path with artworks that blend messages of hope and positivity with visual innovations that create an imaginative universe of awe, wonder, and intimacy. This exhibition features new works created during this time of a global pandemic that embody the artist’s wishes for a peaceful and bright future for all. Harada expresses the light that can be found in the dark, and continues to push sculpture, foam, and acrylic and watercolor painting to new heights in her practice. This exhibition is the second exhibition of the museum’s Texas Asian Women Artists Series. Divine Spark: Kana Harada is on view January 30 through September 5, 2021.

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THE LIGHT IN THE DARK: THE ART OF KANA HARADA BY JACQUELINE CHAO What is light? Visible light or electromagnetic radiation is something that makes vision possible; a natural agent that stimulates sight and makes it possible for us to see. Light is also a form of energy; like the sun, it is the power that fosters life. In times of darkness and uncertainty, and while we currently face a global pandemic, along with deep social, political, and economic challenges—we are sometimes left to ask, where is the light? For Tokyo-born, Dallas-based artist Kana Harada, light is emblematic of one’s strength, soul and of vitality itself. This exhibition, which features new works created by the artist during this time of global pandemic, embody the artist’s wishes for a peaceful and bright future for all. For her first solo exhibition at the Crow Museum, she creates a delicate, immersive and imaginative universe of awe and wonder to explore—we are her guests in her heavenly garden. Consisting largely of natureinspired black and color foam sculptures with intimate moments of colorful painted details, intricate paper cuts, and bright acrylic and watercolor paintings, she expresses the light that can always be found in the dark. As you enter the exhibition, you are greeted with Love Letter From the Future, a brightly and delicately painted foam sheet that is set floating from the wall. The artist’s 2D works, including her painted folding screens such as Fearless Hope and Welcome To My Forest, serve as gateways into her universe. Through these windows of time and space, we receive glimpses of worlds of infinite imagination, possibility, and positivity.

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Divine Spark, the exhibition’s opening sculpture of black foam appears like a single lotus blossom with its petals just unfurling and revealing its center pistil. The lotus flower is regarded in many different cultures as a symbol of purity, enlightenment, selfregeneration and rebirth. Even when its roots are in the dirtiest waters and mud, a most beautiful flower emerges. Like a welcome sign or directional marker, this sculpture is a symbolic reminder of everyone’s infinite inner potential. Throughout the exhibition, handmade sculptures composed mainly of black foam sheets such as Sleepy Shade, Ingrained, Bonsai: Dragon Summer, and New World incorporate real wood and are reminiscent of natural vegetation, as they overflow with seeds and flowering fruit to create a sense being outside while inside. Stretching from the wooden trunk of New World are leaves that have been delicately hand-painted underneath—a delightful surprise as you move around the piece. According to the artist, Sleepy Shade and Bonsai: Dragon Summer were both partly inspired by the great state of Texas; the overhanging branches of Sleepy Shade creates a sense of a protective shade from the Texas heat, and Bonsai: Dragon Summer is a visual and playful interpretation of fire breathing dragons and a large bursting of seeds in the sky, perhaps even an allusion to summer fireworks. Working with black foam to create sculptural suspended pieces, the pliable softness and lightness of the material creates an unexpected contrast to their perceived hard, iron-like appearance. In visual contrast to this forest of black foam sculptures is Freshly Picked, an irresistible and delicate cornucopia of colorful blooming flowers contained within a Longaberger basket, a celebration of nature’s bounty.

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The artist’s other suspended sculptures play with ideas of light by referencing the home and indoor light and furniture fixtures; here the joys of home life are celebrated as the seemingly ordinary become extraordinary. The shape of Cradle is reminiscent of a delicate hanging lantern that one could see both inside or outside. Home Sweet Home is a working hanging lamp and lampshade that has been enhanced and expanded with the artist’s hand cut paper designs. Moonlight is delicately represented in the artist’s watercolor Moon Kissed, situated adjacent to Sleepy Shade and appearing as though a window to the outside from which to admire the bright and warm light of the moon. All taken together, seemingly disparate and opposite concepts such as inside and outside, self and other, microcosms and macrocosms, past and present come together as one. The exhibition is a visual journey of the bright and infinite possibilities of the mind. Kana Harada’s works illuminate the dark corners, delving into memory, myth and fantasy to explore and reveal the power that shadows and lights can have. With looking, we find the magic, the light that burns brightly within us and within the heart of the dark.

Jacqueline Chao, Ph.D. is Senior Curator of Asian Art, Crow Museum of Asian Art of The University of Texas at Dallas.

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ABOUT THE ARTIST Born in Tokyo, Kana Harada studied graphic design, Japanese fine art, and drawing at Ochanomizu School of Fine Arts in Tokyo, Japan. Her artwork has been exhibited in such venues as the Amon Carter Museum, The Museum of Southeast Texas, Beaumont, and The Old Jail Art Center, Albany, as well as in various venues throughout the state of Texas and in New York and Tokyo. She currently lives and works in Dallas, Texas.

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Founded in 1998, the Crow Museum of Asian Art of The University of Texas at Dallas inspires and promotes learning and dialogue about the arts and cultures of Asia through its exhibitions, the research and preservation of its collections, artistic and educational programming, and visitor experience and engagement. The museum accomplishes this in accordance with the highest professional standards and through collaboration with diverse audiences and community partners within North Texas and throughout the world. Free and open to the public, this museum celebrates the arts and cultures of Asia—from ancient eras to contemporary times—through a variety of permanent and traveling exhibitions that showcase the arts of a multitude of countries. With an array of beautiful spaces and galleries, the museum offers a serene setting for quiet reflection in the heart of the Dallas Arts District. Learn more at crowmuseum.org.

FRONT COVER: PAGES 2–4:

Divine Spark (detail), 2020. Foam sheet and mixed media. 53 x 7 x 9 inches.

Ingrained, 2019. Foam sheet and mixed media. 24 x 47 x 23 inches. Photo: Makoto

Takemura PAGE 6:

Installation view, Divine Spark, 2020. Foam sheet and mixed media. 53 x 7 x 9 inches. Photo: Kana Harada PAGE 7:

Installation view, Freshly Picked, 2020. Foam sheet and mixed media. 15 x 43 x 20 inches. Photo: Chad Redmon PAGES 8–9:

Love Letter from the Future, 2019. Acrylic paint on foam sheet. 18 x 12 inches. Photo: Makoto Takemura PAGES 10, 12–13:

New World, 2020. Foam sheet and mixed media. 36 x 48 x 17 inches. Photo: Makoto Takemura PAGES 14, 16–17:

Freshly Picked, 2020. Foam sheet and mixed media. 15 x 43 x 20 inches. Photo: Makoto Takemura PAGES 18, 20–21:

Moon Kissed, 2014. Watercolor. 36 x 28.5 inches. Photo: Makoto Takemura

PAGES 22–23:

Installation view, Divine Spark: Kana Harada at the Crow Museum of Asian Art of The University of Texas at Dallas. Photo: Chad Redmon PAGES 24–25:

Welcome To My Forest, 2020. Folding screen, acrylic paint on Japanese paper 53.5 x 41 x .625 inches. Photo: Makoto Takemura PAGE 27:

Kana Harada with her piece New World (2020). Photo: Makoto Takemura

PAGES 28–29:

Fearless Hope, 2020. Folding screen, acrylic paint on Japanese paper. 24 x 67.25 x .625 inches. Photo: Makoto Takemura PAGES 30–31:

Installation view, Divine Spark: Kana Harada at the Crow Museum of Asian Art of The University of Texas at Dallas. Photo: Chad Redmon AT LEFT:

Home Sweet Home (detail), 2020. Lamp shade paper and mixed media. 13 x 14.25 x 14.25 inches. Photo: Makoto Takemura PAGES 34–35:

Installation view, Home Sweet Home, 2020. Lamp shade paper and mixed media. Dimensions variable. Photo: Chad Redmon All works courtesy of the artist.

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