LACMA Exhibition / Washi Tales: The Paper Art of Ibe Kyoko

LACMA Washi Tales Ibe Kyoko

Recycling: Washi Tale, perforamance with Japan’s Intangible Cultural Treasure Okura Shonosuke.

An Exhibition and Performance based on Washi at Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Washi Tales: The Paper Art of Ibe Kyoko, Sept. 1 to Nov. 28

Recycling: Washi Tales, performance Sept. 22, with Japan’s Intangible Culture Treasure Okura Shonosuke

By Hollis Goodall, Japanese Art Curator of LACMA

Time, texture and light are the tools of the contemporary washi (Japanese paper) artist. The medium, both delicate and, due to its long fibers, amazingly strong, allows for seamless incorporation of materials of mixed age.

Ibe Kyoko, who is a professor at the Kyoto Institute of Technology, has taken this millennium-and-a-half old art form into the modern world.

Incorporating fragments of historical texts, either books, documents or letters passed down through generations, Ibe mixes in new paper pulp and through this process evokes the intertwined stories of past and present.

Ibe works with fibers from the inner bark of paper mulberry (kozo), linen paper, or vintage paper of the highest quality fiber from wild ganpi which she re-pulps, and dependent upon the qualities of each raw material makes paper that is dense and opaque or soft, shiny, and light enough to waft in the breeze.

Every aspect of traditional papermaking is hand done, from making the screens for capturing and blending pulp, to filtering and cleaning paper fibers drawn from the inner bark of the plants, to mixing of elements for the final product.

As such it is a rare case where an artist pushes beyond the complex craft of making paper for luxury use and into the realm of fine art. Though the distinction between art and craft is not as stark in Japan as in the West, and so making such classifications seem irrelevant, the scale and substance, as well of the content of Ibe’s work put her paper sculptures and wall pieces into a class of art for contemplation.

A dozen or so works of various form by Ibe Kyoko will be displayed in the Helen and Felix Juda Gallery on the third level of the Pavilion for Japanese Art at LACMA from Sept.1 to Nov. 28.

In association with this exhibition, on Sept. 22, a special performance, entitled Recycling: Washi Tales, will be held in the Bing theater, with four stories drawn from reuse of special paper, sets, and costume all by Ibe Kyoko.

The performance features powerful stories of human history in a mix of ancient and modern music and dance, reflective of the collection of materials from various times seen in Ibe’s artwork.

A talk with the artist will begin that evening at 7:00 pm, led by Curator of Japanese Art, Hollis Goodall, in LACMA’s Bing Theater. The performance begins at 8:00 pm.

Tickets are $25 for general. Ticket price includes admission to the installation. For tickets, call (323) 857-6010 or purchase at

Japan’s Intangible Cultural Treasure otsuzumi drummer Okura Shonosuke from the Kanze Noh Theater, whose family has been performing noh drumming since the 16th century, will be among the elite participants in this performance.

Directed and written by Elise Thoron from New York, other performers include dancer/actor Karen Kandel, biwa lute player Arai Shisui, specialist in ancient chant and dance Sakurai Makiko, and actor Soeda Sonoko.

This program is funded by the Japan Foundation.