This Starlit Night

Shoko Aono

We are truly delighted to be able to present this rare, four-day exhibition featuring the dyeing/weaving of Genbey Yamaguchi, tenth generation owner of the Kyoto obi merchants, Kondaya Genbey, and the work of Laura de Santillana, one of the Venice’s leading artists. As coincidence would have it, this year marks both the 280th anniversary of Kondaya Genbey and the 10th anniversary of Ippodo Gallery New York.

For the theme of this exhibition, Genbey proposed the poem by the 12th century poet, Kenreimon-in Ukyo no Daibu Many a time have I gazed at the moon. This poem describes the way in which the poet had always admired the moon, but had never previously realized the deep beauty of the star-strewn skies. It sums up the appreciation of hitherto overlooked splendor.  The ‘multitude’ of stars that fill the night sky are highlighted by the ‘single’ moon. Something you are accustomed to looking at suddenly takes on a completely new aspect and moves your heart.  I think this stance of concentrating on a single thing holds a special message especially pertinent today, as we are inundated by a flood of information.  

Laura and Genbey first met in 2014 during the Laura de Santillana Exhibition at the Tokyo Ippodo Gallery and have since developed a mutual respect and friendship for each other that transcends words.  Obi consist of threads taken from the cocoons of the silkworm, or fibers of various plants, that are twisted into threads and woven to create fabric in a time-consuming process. Glass, on the other hand, is created in a moment from minerals that are melted in fire to create different shapes and colors. These two arts seem mutually exclusive, but like the opposing poles of a magnet, these two artists found themselves drawn together.

Both artists were born in ancient cities, where traditional craft arts have flourished: Laura in Venice and Genbey in Kyoto. Not only have they visited one another’s hometowns, but representing East and West, they have taken this opportunity to hold an unprecedented collaboration. 

Genbey has not stinted to use valuable old metal foils that had been passed down through the generations, spending several years to create a subtle and profound obi that expresses the moon spreading its light through the darkness. Laura has used Japanese gold and silver leaf to complete her series of flat forms that trap the light inside, creating a fleeting image of the pale moon disappearing in the white sky of morning.  

For the Ippodo Gallery, which is a novice beginner, as well as for to Kondaya Genbey, which boasts 280 years of history, this exhibition marks a turning point in our histories. We cordially invite you to come, witness and appreciate the now, this moment, this starry night. 

In closing, we would like to express our deepest gratitude to Kondaya Genbey for providing the venue for this exhibition, to the two artists who created the outstanding works shown here, Haruno Ota for planning and bringing this event to fruition, and everyone else who has offered us their support over the years.