Last night I was fortunate enough to listen to Patricia Graham speak about Japanese art and aesthetics. She is absolutely brilliant and it was really neat to hear her opinions on design and discussions of her new book. I have studied Japan a little in my Art History coursework, focusing almost entirely on the Gutai collective and Shiraga Kazao. So I was almost entirely ignorant of Graham’s particular interest, namely the universal Japanese aesthetic and how it permeates every aspect of craft and creation. Japanese art has a distinct look to it. But so does Japanese architecture, product design, furniture, fashion, and performance. It isn’t just sculpture or painting or calligraphy, it’s everything. That distinctly Japanese visual style.
All too often in Art History, we focus in on one particular artist, medium, or movement. We get so caught up in the tiny details and nuances of a particular work that we forget where it fits in the larger cultural framework. This lecture really helped me refocus my attention on the big picture.