Trompe l'oeil

Japan's Bookish Craftsman

The Daily Pic: Three centuries ago, Ogawa Haritsu paid close attention to what he wanted ignored.

08.21.13 7:31 PM ET

Another work of Japanese art, again from San Francisco – this time from a show called “In the Moment: Japanese Art from the Larry Ellison Collection”, at the Asian Art Museum. I normally boycott one-collector shows: They almost always come close to mercenary sycophantism, and this one has moments that come closer than most. But I simply couldn’t resist Daily Pic-ing this pair of lacquered sliding doors, which were made by a revered master named Ogawa Haritsu (1663 –1747).  The splendor of their trompe-l’oeil craft is obvious, using inlaid metal and ceramic to represent the softness of books. But what especially struck me is the scene’s background, whose coarse-grained wood is supposed to read as a neutral support, a no-place that the image simply floats on. And yet that surface that we are not supposed to register – “don’t look at me, I’m just planking” – has clearly been as carefully planned and constructed as the fancy “objects” that sit on it.

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