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Scholten Japanese Art Gallery
Kaiseki: Stone on the Stomach, Feast for the Eye

New York Asia Week, March 28 — April 8, 2006

Ryo Iida Asian Art and Scholten Japanese Art are pleased to present their third exhibition together: Kaiseki: Stone on the Stomach, Feast for the Eye, featuring a selection of over 20 ceramic vessels that were made and actually utilized to serve meals and drinks during a kaiseki meal.

kaisekiA kaiseki is a ritual multi-course light meal that is served to guests preceding a tea ceremony (cha-noyu). The kaiseki meal is composed of seasonal foods prepared in a simple manner according to Zen principals, and presented on carefully selected ceramic dishes. The courses would follow a traditional order: rice (gohan), miso soup (misoshiru), seafood (mukozuke), boiled fish (wanmori), fried fish with vegetables (yakimono), meat with salad (azukebachi), light soup (hashiari), sake, fish and vegetables (hassun), and tea with vegetables in brine (yotukomono). The meal is considered preparation for the cha-noyu; the enjoyment of a thoughtfully presented meal enriches the experience as well as ensures that the guests do not become ill by drinking the strong tea during the ceremony.

The term kaiseki, or ‘stone on the stomach,’ was originally written using two kanji characters, kai (breast or mind), and seki (stone), and is thought to refer to the practice by Zen monks of wrapping a warm stone (yaku-seki) in the folds of their robes over their stomachs (or chests) to help ward of hunger while fasting or during early Buddhist tea ceremonies. In the modern era, as the kaiseki (along with the tea ceremony) moved away from a religious context, the kanji are sometimes replaced with characters originating from ‘group’ and ‘seats,’ implying a meaning closer to ‘party food to enjoy drinking.’ Even today, it is not uncommon for both versions of the kanji to be used (particularly at restaurants).

kaisekiIn this exhibition, we are pleased to introduce the two sets of mukozuke (for the seafood course) dishes done by the two most respected potters during Edo Period: one set of five bowls by Ogata Kenzan (1663-1743) and the other by set of five maple leaf-shaped dishes by Nonomura Ninsei (1574-1660/6).

kaisekiThe earliest piece in the show is a Karatsu serving dish from Momoyama period (1573-1603). The dish is decorated with simple brush stroke depicting birds in flight above grasses. An Iga ware serving dish made by Kitaoji Rosanjin, 20th century master potter is also included .

Kaiseki: Stone on the Stomach, Feast for the Eye includes over twenty different pieces in a variety of ceramic wares such as Japanese Karatsu, Kyoto-ware, Iga ware, and Imari porcelain; and export ceramics from Chinese Ming Dynasty and Korean Choson Dynasty. The Japanese in the Momoyama and Edo periods did not limit themselves to domestic ceramics. They ordered many different types of wares from China and Korea to satisfy their tastes for variety. We are fortunate to acquire several examples that were imported from Jingdezhen (China) for Japanese use. The two gosu akae (lit. cobalt and red decoration) types in the whimsical shape of elephant and abalone are unique examples of 17th century Chinese export porcelain. Two sake cups from Choson Dynasty Korea are also added to the show. In addition, we have a dozen of blue and white Japanese soba choko (lit. cups for soba noodle) from late Edo period. While vessels of similar form were kaisekitypically used to serve a variety of dishes up to the mid-Edo period (17th/18th century), by the late 19th century cups of this type had become fashionable containers for cold soba.

The exhibition opens Tuesday, March 28th and continues through Saturday, April 8th. Scholten Japanese Art, located at 145 West 58th Street, Suite 6D, is open Monday through Friday, and some Saturdays, 11am to 5pm, by appointment. To schedule an appointment please call 212.585.0474. For the duration of the exhibition the gallery will have general open hours 11 am to 5pm.

kaiseki