INDIANAPOLIS — An exhibit two years in the making and the likes of which has rarely, if ever, been seen in Indianapolis opens March 2 at the Herron School of Art and Design on the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis campus.
“Discovering Japanese Bamboo Art: The Rusty and Ann Harrison Collection,” an exhibition of 45 sculptural bamboo forms and baskets, opens with a reception from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the Eleanor Prest Reese, Robert B. Berkshire, and Dorit and Gerald Paul galleries of Eskenazi Hall, 735 W. New York St. The exhibition runs through April 16.
The exhibit artifacts belong to longtime Indiana art aficionados Rusty and Ann Harrison, who began their collection decades ago when Rusty’s business travels took him to Japan.
Plans for the exhibition began taking shape two years ago, when Herron’s dean, Valerie Eickmeier, was meeting with Ann Harrison at the Harrisons’ home in Attica, Ind. “The more that I learned about the Harrisons’ collection of bamboo art, the more intrigued I became,” Eickmeier said. “It will be an amazing exhibition for others — especially our students — to see and learn from.”
“Bamboo is as deeply intertwined as rice in Japanese history and culture. The most talented artisans made bamboo baskets for tea ceremony flower arrangements,” said Robert T. Coffland, an expert in Japanese bamboo art. “In the mid-19th century, a master maker and former samurai, Hayakawa Shokosai I, declared himself an artist. This break with tradition encouraged other artisans to begin individualistic experiments that drew upon Chinese and Japanese aesthetics.”
Four artists represented in this exhibit are among the few Japanese officially designated as “Holders of Important Intangible Resources,” commonly known as “Living Tresures of Japan,” in recognition of their mastery of the unique skills necessary to preserve an art form that would have otherwise been extinct.
As there are very few contemporary collectors of the art form, according to Coffland, the Herron exhibit will introduce mostly undiscovered works spanning more than a century.
Other exhibits to open at Herron are “Tales to Tell,” an illustration exhibition by Herron alumni, Feb. 24 to March 9 in the Basile Gallery; and “It’s Lonely Out Here,” an installation that features an idiosyncratic re-creation of Sputnik by Cody Arnall, Feb. 24 to March 16 in the Marsh Gallery.
Herron School of Art and Design’s exhibitions and artists’ talks are free and open to the public. Eskenazi Hall gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.