KOKESHI: From Folk Art to Art Toy

A collaboration between LATDA and the Japanese American National Museum, July 11 - October 4, 2009.


Casting a fresh eye on the iconic and ubiquitous Japanese folk toy, KOKESHI is organized into three sections. First up: an overview of tradition, exploring the origins and history of the iconic folk toys known as kokeshi. On display will be over 200 breathtaking examples of traditional kokeshi dolls from the extensive collection of Itske and Anthony Stern.


In brilliant contrast to traditional kokeshi, the second section of the exhibition showcased the work of eleven contemporary artists who produced interpretations inspired by -- and which pay homage to -- these humble dolls. Working in disparate media, this part of the exhibition illustrates how the appeal of the simple kokeshi form has grown stronger in direct proportion to the dynamism of the personal interpretation. Artists included: Nicole DeLeon, Alexandra Gjurasic, Sachiho Hino Lee, Margaret Kasahara, Emi Motokawa, Joji Okazaki, David and Kazumi Kobayashi Svenson, Phoebe Washer, James Watts and Kathy Yoshihara.


The third component of the the exhibition is Custom Kokeshi 2009, demonstrating beyond a doubt that, even without arms, the reach of kokeshi has extended deeply into the cutting edge world of the art toy. Curated by Christina Conway in a lively reprise of her hit 2007 show in San Diego, this section presents a thoroughly eclectic display of all new work. Over 100 well-known international contemporary artists demonstrate the breadth of their artistic inspiration and the malleability of form and concept, and all based on the same simple kokeshi form each was given. For a complete list of artists and images click here.

The effect was a dazzling homage to kokeshi with over 300 pieces on display.