Bamboo Japanese-Style, From Dynastic Masters of the Art

So you don’t miss the contemporary angle, the Met commissioned Tanabe Chikuunsai IV, a fourth-generation bamboo artist born in 1973, to create an installation piece that looms over the entrance to the show. “The Gate,” as it is called, is two thick entwined coils that twist upward from the floor and spread out along the ceiling. Their scale is imposing; they evoke twin baby cyclones or, less violent, the bifurcated trunk of an ancient banyan tree, but their open-weave, light-colored Tiger bamboo is semitransparent and sort of weightless. These forms have an animated-cartoon energy and snap; they cavort almost wickedly. Throughout the exhibition you will see basketry abstracted, deconstructed and all but exploded in the hands of successive generations of artists. In 1975 Tanabe Yota (1944-2008), a younger brother of Tanabe Chikuunsai III, created “Earth Dedicated to Children,” a low-lying mountain (or volcano) form that looks like a miniature earthwork, or maybe a model for James Turrell’s “Roden Crater.”

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“Bowler Hat,” by Hayakawa Shokosai I.

Credit
Jake Naughton for The New York Times

In a show like this, baskets can start to look like one of the world’s most complete, resonant art mediums. The characteristic Japanese reverence for nature is reflected in titles referring — usually with justification — to waves, blossoming flowers or moonlight, but it also comes across directly and physically. Basketry’s processes do not extensively transform bamboo, as is the case with so much else — ceramics or lacquer, say, or for that matter oil painting. The central technique is weaving. There will usually be some cutting or slicing, often into exquisitely thin strands, and maybe some soaking beforehand; along the way rattan might be used for reinforcement and, toward the finish, lacquer may be applied. But that’s about it. We stay remarkably close to the original natural material, which submits to spectacular skill and structural concepts without losing its identity.

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“Dancing Frog Flower Basket,” left, made of twisted bamboo and rattan, by Hayakawa Shokosai III, and “Flower Basket,” made of smoked dwarf bamboo, by Hayakawa Shokosai IV.

Credit
Jake Naughton for The New York Times

The linear structure of bamboo basketry…

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