The Chicago Artists Coalition is pleased to present Unison, a BOLT Residency exhibition featuring new work by Mayumi Lake.
In Ancient Japan, when political chaos and a series of natural disasters occurred, the people believed the last days of this world were near. To calm their fear and despair, they filled sacred prayer sites with bright and bold mythical flowers, believed to bloom through the afterlife. Those flowers were called Housouge (pronounced Housou-gae). The bigger the fear and despair, the more colorful and immense the flowers.
Mayumi Lake’s new series of sculptural photographic work, Unison, feature her interpretation of the mythic heavenly flowers or Housouge. The blossoms are constructed from motifs scanned directly from girls’ vintage kimonos. They are both cut and then reassembled by hand, and include toy parts, plastic flowers, imitation gold, sequins, and various other objects that recall Lake’s own childhood in Japan. The use of the kimono goes beyond being just a reference to her cultural heritage. It signifies a dying cultural tradition, as the use of this traditional garb has all but disappeared and is relegated to a symbolic gesture reserved for special and rare occasions. Lake’s choice of objects and toys directly references her own childhood, which was saturated with objects that alluded to American pop culture. Elements of the two opposing cultures are intertwined, creating a strained and unique harmony that is illuminated through the constructed blossoms.
The ominous mood and the idea of Mono-no-Aware (the awareness of impermanence) has been cast onto Lake’s recent works, always hinting at reincarnation and its association with death. As a natural progression, Lake’s focus has shifted to expand and decipher the life after death. The blossoms that are threaded throughout Unison represent a vision of Bardo, where the soul floats between life after death, a state similar to the Western idea of purgatory. This in-between state echoes her own existence - a cultural hybrid somewhere between East and West.
This exhibition has been made possible with a grant from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, and Faculty Enrichment grant from School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Saturday, November 11, 2017
5:00 - 6:00 pm
Folklore of the Kimono: Fear and Fantasy
Alan Labb will moderate a conversation between Mayumi Lake and Dr. Ayako Yoshimura to discuss their personal stories regarding the kimono, its symbolic importance, rich cultural history, and its disappearance from contemporary Japan. The discussion will take place at CAC (217 North Carpenter Street, Chicago, IL) in the BOLT Project Space. This event is free and open to the public.
Ayako Yoshimura is a folklorist (Ph.D. in folklore, University of Wisconsin–Madison) whose research interests include ethnography, autoethnography, personal experience narratives, vernacular beliefs, the supernatural, material culture (clothing, foodways, arts and crafts, design), and public folklore (cultural exchange, community outreach).
Her dissertation is entitled "An Autoethnography of Kin-aesthetics: Retrieving Family Folklore Through the Wearing of Used Kimonos" (2015), and she offers university lectures and public talks on kimono culture while continuing research that focuses on wearers' perspectives. Ayako Yoshimura is the Japanese Studies Librarian at the University of Chicago Library.
Alan Labb is currently an Associate Professor at the School of the Art Institute. This past summer, Labb served as a Distinguished Professor at the Tokyo University of the Arts, as part of a Global Arts Joint Project. Labb is currently working on a project for the Sister City exchange between Osaka and Chicago, documenting and interviewing tsunami survivors for an exhibition that will mark the seventh anniversary of the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disasters that occurred in the Tohoku area of Japan.
Mayumi Lake (b. Osaka, Japan) is a Chicago-based artist. Her photography and video work delve into childhood and pubescent dreams, phobia and desires. She employs herself and others as her models, as well as dolls, toys, weapons, vintage clothes, and altered landscape as her props. Mayumi has exhibited nationally and internationally at Miyako Yoshinaga Gallery, Asia Society, Art in General, Artists Space, New York; Midwest Museum of Contemporaty Art, Carmel; Fotograpie Forum International, Frankfurt; Cornelius Pleser Galerie, Munich; Galleria PaciArte, Brescia; FOTOAMERICA, Santiago; Witzenhausen Gallery, Amsterdam; O Gallery, Tokyo. Mayumi received her BFA with a focus in Photography and Filmmaking, and MFA in Photography from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.