Modern Japanese product design in the spotlight
How to encapsulate a nation through 100 objects? “Japanese Design Today 100,” a small but choice touring exhibition sponsored by the Japan Foundation and making its world debut tonight at Perloff Hall at UCLA, attempts to do just that.
The free show begins with classic objects from the 1950s to the 1990s — including the white Toshiba rice cooker from 1955 and the stolid Nikon F camera from 1959 — as it documents the period in which Japan began to successfully produce household electronics and camera equipment. Then there are 89 more recent objects in nine categories, including furniture and housewares, apparel and accessories, stationery and healthcare.
Western attitudes toward Japanese design have radically shifted in the last 20 years as Westerners have come to prize what the Japanese do well, says Hitoshi Abe, chair of architecture and urban design at UCLA. “Before, originality was more respected, but now, in the world of globalization, how you bridge different ideas has more value.” The Japanese have long been adept at incorporating ideas from the West to create hybridized products, he says.
Some selections in the exhibition will be familiar — such as the Sony Walkman and the Toyota Prius. Most, however, will be new to those viewing the show. But they reflect the characteristics of spareness, functionality and craftsmanship for which Japanese products are known.
Fashion designer Issey Miyake is represented by his No. 1 Dress and Mogura lamp. Both can be folded flat, then unfolded to reveal a form with geometric planes, like a piece of origami. The lamp also is ecological; it’s made from a fiber recycled from plastic bottles.
The synthesis of old and new also is embodied in a set of cups coated in titanium. The cups are iridescent and, though incorporating a high-tech material, also have a rough texture, as of rock smoothed by water.
‘Japanese Design Today 100' exhibition info
Where: Perloff Hall at UCLA
When: Opening reception 7:30 to 9:30 tonight. Regular exhibition hours noon to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Ends July 19.
Info: (310) 267-4704, www.jflalc.org