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Joining forces: Exhibit at UMass’ Hampden Gallery fosters appreciation of Japanese art, culture

  • COURTESY OF HAMPDEN GALLERY<br/>"The Viewpoint From a Window (The Surfaces in/of Transition)," silver gelatin print by Masahiro Amano<br/>

    COURTESY OF HAMPDEN GALLERY
    "The Viewpoint From a Window (The Surfaces in/of Transition)," silver gelatin print by Masahiro Amano

  • COURTESY OF HAMPDEN GALLERY<br/>"The Viewpoint From a Window 1," silver gelatin print by Masahiro Amano

    COURTESY OF HAMPDEN GALLERY
    "The Viewpoint From a Window 1," silver gelatin print by Masahiro Amano

  • COURTESY OF HAMPDEN GALLERY<br/>"Midialo (Rabari)," photography by Yoshiaki Kita

    COURTESY OF HAMPDEN GALLERY
    "Midialo (Rabari)," photography by Yoshiaki Kita

  • COURTESY OF HAMPDEN GALLERY<br/>"Fluid City," installation by TANJC

    COURTESY OF HAMPDEN GALLERY
    "Fluid City," installation by TANJC

  • COURTESY OF HAMPDEN GALLERY<br/>"The Tree in the Room 16," installation by Yuriko Yamamoto

    COURTESY OF HAMPDEN GALLERY
    "The Tree in the Room 16," installation by Yuriko Yamamoto

  • COURTESY OF HAMPDEN GALLERY<br/>"Double Wonder," installation by Yuriko Yamamoto

    COURTESY OF HAMPDEN GALLERY
    "Double Wonder," installation by Yuriko Yamamoto

  • COURTESY OF HAMPDEN GALLERY<br/>"Tears of the Sky," installation by Izuru Mizutani

    COURTESY OF HAMPDEN GALLERY
    "Tears of the Sky," installation by Izuru Mizutani

  • COURTESY OF HAMPDEN GALLERY<br/>"There Will Be a Certain Life," installation by Izuru Mizutani

    COURTESY OF HAMPDEN GALLERY
    "There Will Be a Certain Life," installation by Izuru Mizutani

  • COURTESY OF HAMPDEN GALLERY<br/>"Fluid City," detail from installation by TANJC

    COURTESY OF HAMPDEN GALLERY
    "Fluid City," detail from installation by TANJC

  • COURTESY OF HAMPDEN GALLERY<br/>"The Viewpoint From a Window (The Surfaces in/of Transition)," silver gelatin print by Masahiro Amano<br/>
  • COURTESY OF HAMPDEN GALLERY<br/>"The Viewpoint From a Window 1," silver gelatin print by Masahiro Amano
  • COURTESY OF HAMPDEN GALLERY<br/>"Midialo (Rabari)," photography by Yoshiaki Kita
  • COURTESY OF HAMPDEN GALLERY<br/>"Fluid City," installation by TANJC
  • COURTESY OF HAMPDEN GALLERY<br/>"The Tree in the Room 16," installation by Yuriko Yamamoto
  • COURTESY OF HAMPDEN GALLERY<br/>"Double Wonder," installation by Yuriko Yamamoto
  • COURTESY OF HAMPDEN GALLERY<br/>"Tears of the Sky," installation by Izuru Mizutani
  • COURTESY OF HAMPDEN GALLERY<br/>"There Will Be a Certain Life," installation by Izuru Mizutani
  • COURTESY OF HAMPDEN GALLERY<br/>"Fluid City," detail from installation by TANJC

A group of artists from Japan who launched an organization to connect artists internationally will exhibit their work at the show “Foreign Affairs” at the Hampden Gallery at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, starting Sept. 8.

The artwork ranges from photography to installation and provides an insight into “global issues, cultural reflection and self-discovery,” according to curator Chris Nelson, an installation artist living and working in Holyoke.

Nelson said the show that features the work of Izuru Mizutani, Masahiro Amano, TANJC, Yoshiaki Kita and Yuriko Yamamoto, has been about two years in the making. It began when Nelson met one of the artists, Mizutani, at the Vermont Studio Center in 2006.

Mizutani’s installations deal with time and memory, using ghostly imagery to reflect on the past, Nelson said.

“There were a lot of similarities in our work. ... We appreciated and admired each other’s work and the following year he asked me if I wanted to have a show in Japan.”

While there, Nelson learned about an enterprise that Mizutani and other Japanese artists developed called “Project NoA.” Project NoA works to sponsor artists, create exhibitions, and develop a global network of artists to foster cross-cultural exchanges, sharing of resources, and to launch international art shows.

Nelson ended up doing two other shows in Japan through this group and wanted to return the favor.

“I wanted to continue that global network by bringing them here,” he said.

Do-it-yourself

Nelson connected with Anne LaPrade Seuthe, the director of the Hampden Gallery at UMass, to create a show there that could be supported by the university. Seuthe was able to secure a $2,000 residency grant from the Fine Arts Center and Nelson raised $5,000 through a Kickstarter campaign, which paid for the artists’ air travel.

Seuthe said she was intrigued by the do-it-yourself nature of Nelson’s show, which is an overriding principle of Project NoA, as well.

“Chris is doing what many artists are doing these days, which is taking things into their own hands,” she said. In addition to creating the show and raising money for the project, Seuthe said Nelson made connections with other artists and people in the area to host the visiting artists, is helping to install the show and find materials, and is promoting it.

“He is involving so many different people in so many ways and it makes it easier and more productive to do an international show,” she said. “The general vibe is it’s inclusive. And so much of contemporary art is not inclusive.” Seuthe said that concept is very much in keeping with Project NoA.

“It’s about extending the arts community across international borders,” she said. “It’s a very exciting thing. Project NoA is in some ways about inviting people into the institution and removing the labels that say, ‘We are the artists and you are the audience and you are the grants people.’ We can all join forces and this strengthens everyone and creates more opportunities for everyone. It’s a win-win situation.”

Making connections

The artists began arriving on Aug. 21 and Nelson planned to help the installation artists build their constructions the following week. He said Mizutani will exhibit an installation called “Collapse,” that includes a large projection of glass elements crashing and falling down a wall and reflecting into a pool of water, and another called “Tears of Sky,” that features a projection of a blue ring-like pattern from the ceiling onto a circular disc about five feet wide below, on the floor.

Nelson was searching the area for a satellite dish that might be used to recreate the installation locally. The creation blends elements of the sky and water and water droplets.

Nelson planned to help another artist, Yamamoto, to build a long set of stairs that viewers can climb up and into a small darkened room with a balcony. Viewers will make their way through a maze-like room leading to a video projection of moving fabric.

Yamamoto’s work causes viewers to rethink their ideas about daily situations through interaction with fanciful rooms and environments, Nelson explained.

“Her installations are kind of about recreating memories or establishing a sense of déjà vu for people or creating a dream-like environment,” he said.

The other work includes black-and-white photos by Amano, who captured a series of images while looking out a storefront window from 87th St. and Lexington Avenue in New York City; black-and-white photos by Kita that “convey an older time and place,” and TANJC, who will show a large video projection depicting a hand wrapping around a building.

Kita will show black-and-white images from the 2011 tsunami and earthquake in Japan. The images are saturated with rich and dark undertones and have a sort of timeless quality, Nelson said.

He said the five artists from Japan will stay with artist friends in the Valley and will attend local art exhibitions.

“I hope that through this event, more connections will be made among artists in western Massachusetts and Project NoA,” Nelson said. “I am hoping we can expand the global network of artists and maybe something else will come of it, in either direction. For me, it’s not only about introducing these five artists to the area, but introducing them to the arts community here.”

International exchange

Nelson says he hopes the new relationships made will help “create and sustain an ongoing cycle of international exchange that will enhance the creation, understanding, and appreciation of meaningful contemporary art.”

The big goal, he says, is to broaden connections and introduce people to one another.

“Who knows what will come of it in the future,” he said. “It’s just a way of opening doors.” Participants, he said, may have opportunities to travel to Japan in the future and to participate in projects sponsored by Project NoA.

“My experience there was unforgettable,” he said. “I felt a great connection to Japan and its culture and aesthetics. It was a huge privilege to have an opportunity to exhibit my work in Japan.”

Nelson said his experience in Japan has informed his own work, and he hopes that the visiting Japanese artists may be similarly influenced by their travels here.

“The Japanese are more in tune to subtleties,” he said. “It helped me in my own work to explore the subtleties and develop a greater appreciation for them.”

Seuthe said Nelson’s ability to draw in many people from the local arts community and beyond has helped him curate an international show that would otherwise be costly and difficult.

“There is strength in numbers,” she said. “There could be a lot of obstacles in an international show of this scope, but they all have a strong optimism that they will make it work out and I think they will.”

Seuthe said the generosity of local people willing to host the artists — such as local artist Peter Dellert and his wife Motoko Inoue, who is Japanese and is director of publishing and merchandising for the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst — has been a big help.

“It’s an alternative way of putting together an international exhibit,” Seuthe said. “If we really had to do everything by the book or conventionally, it would be cost prohibitive.”

The exhibit opens with a reception Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m., with an artists’ talk at 3:30, and will remain on view through Oct. 7 at the Hampden Gallery, at 131 Southwest Circle at UMass.

There will also be other local talks by the five artists — at the Hampden Gallery on Wednesday at 4 p.m., and at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley on Thursday at 4:30 p.m.

The artists will discuss their work and give a perspective on being an artist in Japan; will speak about Japan’s contemporary art scene; and will introduce and discuss Project NoA, an organization they created to build relationships among artists and arts audiences on an international level.

For information, visit www.foreignaffairs2013.com.

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