Japanese Arts in LIC

RESOBOX (www.resobox.com) is an exciting arts venture on 27th Street just north of Queens Plaza. Owned by Takashi Ikezawa and Fumio Tashiro, this small space offers a range of classes, exhibitions and performance events that have their roots in Japanese culture and a spirit of creative collaboration which draws from the owners’ philosophical, musical and business backgrounds. The name “Reso Box” reflects the owner’s wish for the space to be a box within which artistic ventures may resonate with each other and form unique creations, some of which may be “of the moment” in the form of improvisations involving musicians, dancers,  fine artists and others offering finished artwork which may be exhibited and purchased.

Takashi Ikezawa and Fumio Tashiro, co-owners of ResoBox

Takashi Ikezawa and Fumio Tashiro, co-owners of ResoBox

Fumio Tashiro ( http://www.myspace.com/bombsun) was born in Kumamoto, Japan and moved to the US in 1991 to challenge himself as a musician. He plays upright bass and creates original musical compositions, he is also well known on the New York Jazz scene under his stage name “Bomb Sun”,  with solid skills in experimental improvisation. He is especially interseted in creating synergies between artists across genres, including the visual arts, with strong links to celebrations of Japanese cultural expressions. He originated the RESOBOX project in 2009 and is currently CEO.

Takashi Ikezawa, the Manager of RESOBOX has a background in Wall Street finance and, artistically as a violinist (although he does not see himself as a professional musician he acknowledges his links, as a player,with jazz and experimental music). He and Fumio opened the gallery in June 2011 and together they have enabled classes to be offered to people who have ranged in age from 4 to 75 years old, they have also had synergistic, improvised events, most recently involving Shakuhachi (flute), painters, Butoh dancers and Fumio’s bass. They usually have exhibitions every 3 weeks and prefer group shows to be more collaborations rather than exhibitions of individual artists: “Let them work together to make one, or several pieces and present those as a different kind of group exhibition”. RESOBOX hopes to open a second gallery in Manhattan in the next year.

Currently the space is occupied by an exhibition of art from Japanese born and Queens resident Ayakoh Furukawa (http://www.ayakohfurukawa.net) . “Who Was Not Created By A Woman?” is a collection of pieces that demonstrate the artist’s craft in drawing, painting and knitting, all presented with an emphasis on themes around femininity, in its social, spiritual, psychological and political dimensions. Most striking in the exhibition is a set of knitted (or are they crocheted) vaginas, each of which present aspects of femininity, sometimes entertaining and humorous and sometimes striking in their beauty. “Knitting is soft and warm, like your mother”, she says as she presents these 12 larger than life, pieces.

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Also offered are drawings of women and children, created by the artist from texts which are repeated to form the lines and shades of these often life-size images. Furukawa takes her short texts from a range of sources: herself, Coco Chanel, Mother Teresa and Oprah Winfrey and weaves them into images that are, themselves, quite beautiful, and then, when you get close to read them, more meaningful through the conjunction of text and image. “You can compare the image and the words and make your own conclusions”.

Most interesting were her full length text drawings of women and children from Thai mountain peoples, who, like some African women, wear rings as collars from childhood, extending their necks in ways that betray a kind of bondage, but also, via tourism, give these women the power to earn in ways that their men folk cannot: “…it looks like they are trapped in a coil, but in reality they make a lot of money for their family”.

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“The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty” – Mother Teresa

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In a large text drawing of the Japanese god Amaterasu, ruler of the sun and heavens and opponent of her brother Tsukuyomi, the god of the moon and ruler of the night, Furukawa uses her own text to create a figure which, to me, showed stylistic influences that were Oriental, Indian and European-Classical. For her text she writes: “Mother I have been inside of you for ten months and listened to your heartbeat in every moment of your life, you created this perfect shrine for my soul, my body is an entity of the ancient secrets of life that your womb remembers“, and in doing so makes homage to motherhood, femininity and, what Jung called the “Collective Unconscious”.

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Ayakoh Furukawa

Furukawa also shows her skill in as a painter with two paintings with a “Little Red Riding Hood” theme, where the young girl is seen, in one, with her foot on the wolf’s tail, and in another, having tamed the wolf. These paintings combine images of 18th century romantic encounters, where the male is seen as the powerful seducer, with elements that draw upon  rural designs that have their origins in wallpaper, and, in her own admission, a shower curtain. In describing these works Furukawa voices her awareness of children’s sexual vulnerability and the destructiveness of male violence.   Yet the themes of the paintings, to me, are of the woman rising above histories of abuse and powerlessness and facing her assailants with compassion, rather than animosity.

Little Red Riding Hood Tames the Wolf

Little Red Riding Hood Tames the Wolf

The above painting reminds me of the scene in “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, where the fox acknowledges his  taming, and agrees to be tamed. In that way his power and strength do not become subserviant. So, in this painting, a culture of oppression and abuse does not persist, and is replaced by one of freedom, compassion and collaboration.

 “Who Was Not Created By A Woman” can be viewed at RESOBOX, 41-26, 27th Street, LIC, NY 11101 until February 1st.
Reso Box also offers classes for adults and children in: Japanese Classical Dance, Okinawan Dance, Samurai Sword, Ink Painting, illustration, Karate and Stick Fighting. Check out www.resobox.com.

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