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Kimono! The Artistry of Itchiku Kubota

June 10 - September 16, 2018

Kimono! The Artistry of Itchiku Kubota features 48 magnificent handcrafted pictorial kimono created by internationally recognized artist Itchiku Kubota (Japanese, 1917-2003). The Museum of Art is the only United States venue for this touring exhibition.

Kubota’s immeasurable creative spirit transformed traditional Japanese garments into works of art. Each of the kimono in the exhibition is nearly seven feet in height and embellished with intricate detailing created through complex dyeing techniques and embroidery, accented by gold and silver leaf and hand painting. Many of the kimono were conceived as a series and are installed together to create panoramic vistas manifesting Kubota’s reverence for terrestrial and cosmic landscapes.

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Itchiku Kubota (1917-2003),
Mt. Fuji Series, Ohn/Fuji and the Burning Clouds (1994); tie-dyeing, ink painting, and embroidery on silk crepe (chirimen) with gold wefts; 261 x 136 cm.
The Kubota Collection,
the International Chodiev Foundation

Kubota began his textile career at age 14. His artistic vision was transformed in 1937 when he viewed a rare sample of 16th-century fabric created in the tsujigahana style, a lost art. Because no instructions existed to explain the intricate process of tsujigahana, and because the specific silk fabric necessary for its successful production had not been woven for centuries, Kubota devoted the rest of his life to studying and experimenting with dye, fabrics, and techniques to decipher and capture the ancient artform’s mysteries.

By 1962, Kubota began developing his own form of tsujigahana in which he incorporated many of the traditional decorative practices of resist-dyeing, brush painting, applied metallic leaf, and embroidery using a contemporary silk crepe fabric, chirimen, and synthetic dyes. In 1977, when Kubota was 60 years old, he displayed his art for the first time in an exhibition in Tokyo. Since then, his creations have been shown around the globe—across Asia, Europe, and North America.

Kimono landscape web

Itchiku Kubota (1917-2003) Six Kimono from Symphony of Light, Seasons (1983-86)
tie-dyeing, ink painting, and embroidery on silk crepe (chirimen); 198 x 139 cm each
The Kubota Collection, the International Chodiev Foundation

Kubota’s grand plan was to create a series of 80 kimono called Symphony of Light that would, when placed side by side, depict, as he put it, the “grandeur of the universe.” Kimono! showcases 36 stunning works that Kubota developed for Symphony of Light, including kimono that represent Kubota’s visualization of autumn and winter. These are mounted to produce mesmerizing, fantastical, panoramic landscapes that segue lyrically from the luminous golden glow of autumn’s light to the mystical icy starkness of winter’s snow. An additional seven kimono, fashioned from a palette of radiant colors, offer an awe-inspiring interpretation of the cosmos at the dawn of creation.

The exhibition also includes kimono that showcase the breadth of Kubota’s design artistry. San, the kimono that serves as a keynote image for the exhibition, is a dazzling interpretation of the brilliant Siberian sunsets that gave Kubota the will to survive the bleak years he spent in a Russian prison camp. Kimono from Kubota’s dramatic Mt. Fuji series, and other individually designed pieces, express the artist’s reverence for nature and his passion for capturing the transcendent quality of light and color in thread and dyes.

Kimono! is curated by Dr. Jacqueline Marx Atkins, PhD., and organized by the International Chodiev Foundation. It will be on view through September 16.


We Thank Our Exhibition Sponsors
Lead sponsors:
Empire State Development Division of Tourism Market NY Funds, and
Elizabeth R. Lemieux, Ph.D., who has generously sponsored related programming
Associate sponsors:
Sangertown Square, Florence C. Bourdon, Richard and Barbara Decker
This traveling exhibition was organized by the International Chodiev Foundation.


Kimono Exhibition Opening June 9, 2018

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New York State Council on the Arts with the support of
Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

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