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Here and There :

Here and There introduces art, artists, galleries and museums around Japan that non-Japanese readers and first-time visitors may find of particular interest. The writer claims no art expertise, just a subjective viewpoint acquired over many years' residence in Japan.

Fluidity and Symmetry: Roy Staab's Natural Art
Alan Gleason
Spring Hasu
"Spring Hasu,"
International House, Tokyo, April 2007

Roy Staab lives in Milwaukee but his unique installations, made of natural materials (bamboo, reeds, stones, snow) he finds in the surrounding environment, have a resonance with East Asian artistic and philosophical traditions that earn his work an appreciative audience in Korea and Japan. On his previous Japan visit, in 2005, he created six installations for the Yokohama Museum of Art. This year he has installed a new work, "Spring Hasu," at the International House of Japan in Roppongi, Tokyo.

Built on the grounds of the prewar Iwasaki Mansion, I-House boasts a formal garden that represents the best of "modern" Japanese garden design (though it looks quite traditional to the Western eye). It makes a perfect backdrop for "Spring Hasu," a grand weaving, entirely of bamboo, in the shape of a seven-petaled lotus, some ten meters across and three meters high. This is a lovely work that bears leisurely, contemplative viewing; my only disappointment was that it is at some remove from the garden proper. Owing to space limitations (Staab's creations are big) and the artist's reluctance to impose on the design of the garden itself, "Spring Hasu" occupies an otherwise nondescript square of lawn on the ground floor roof above the garden. Granted, this affords excellent close-up views of the work from the surrounding lobby and restaurant, as well as the rooms above.

To fully appreciate the subtlety of Staab's work in a more natural setting, however, I recommend watching a video of his prizewinning "Folded Swallow," which rose up out of a marshland alongside a South Korean river in 2006. One of the delights of both these installations is the geometry of the bamboo weavings, which in the case of the seven-sided "Spring Hasu" is particularly intricate.

The "Folded Swallow" video, shot by the artist as he circumambulates his work (a process that takes a good five minutes, complete with squishing sounds as his boots sink into the mucky ground), can be seen on YouTube. "Spring Hasu" will be on view at International House until May 6 (note: the work is titled "Nogiku" in I-House literature).

 Ground-level view of "Spring Hasu "Folded Swallow"
left: Ground-level view of "Spring Hasu," April 2007
right: "Folded Swallow," Gongju, South Korea, 2006
Photos courtesy of Roy Staab
"Folded Swallow" video
"Spring Hasu" video
International House of Japan
http://www.i-house.or.jp/en/
5-11-16 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Phone: 03-3470-4611
Garden open for viewing daily 10-10
Transportation: 5 minutes walk from Azabu Juban subway station on the Oedo and Namboku lines, or 10 minutes walk from Roppongi station on the Hibiya line
image
Alan Gleason
Alan Gleason is a translator, editor and writer based in Tokyo, where he has lived for 22 years. In addition to writing about the Japanese art scene he has edited and translated works on Japanese theater (from kabuki to the avant-garde) and music (both traditional and contemporary).
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