|At 80, the Japanese
artist and illustrator Seiji Fujishiro is having his first
solo show in New York, in the lobby gallery of the Nippon
Club, just across from Carnegie Hall, at 145 West 57th Street.
"Symphony of Light and Shadow" is close to irresistible, as
might be expected from something that combines aspects of
an origami fest, a Walt Disney medley and the Lord & Taylor
windows at Christmastime.
It is not stretching things to call Mr. Fujishiro the Japanese
Disney. Trained in painting, he supported himself after World
War II doing shadow-puppet shows, becoming so enamored of
the effects of light and dark that he figured out a way to
translate them into art. He invented a dizzyingly intricate
form of cutpaper collage, lighted from behind, called kage-e
(pronounced kah-geh-EH), or shadow picture.
His jewel-toned fairy-tale images are as embedded in Japan's collective memory
as, say, Homer Simpson is in ours. They have appeared regularly
in newspapers, magazines, children's books and even textbooks.
In the late 1960's, one of his puppet characters, a frog named
Keroyon, starred in a hit children's television show.
In the darkened gallery at the Nippon Club, where some of the images
are doubled and even tripled by flanking mirrors or pools
of water, Mr. Fujishiro's work shows him as a consummate showman,
a fearless colorist and a technical wizard who can meet any
pictorial challenge. Cut paper for a cathedral's stained-glass
windows is one thing, but for a hazy gray sky punctuated with
soft orbs of falling snow? His solution is dazzlingly simple.
This show, which runs through Saturday, will appeal to
the demographic known as children of all ages. But contemporary
artists who have reached voting age should also take note.
Cut paper, wide-eyed waifs, cartoony figures, childhood
innocence, bright color and Japanese popular culture figure
in hundreds of artworks these days. Here's an influence,
or at least a precedent, Westerners may not know about.