June 29, 2020 - Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia - Shofuso and Modernism
e-flux Architecture
June 29, 2020
June 29, 2020

Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia

Courtesy of the Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia

Shofuso and Modernism
Mid-Century Collaboration between Japan and Philadelphia
September 2–December 1, 2020

Shofuso Japanese House and Garden
Lansdowne Drive & Horticultural Drive
19131 Philadelphia, PA

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Shofuso Japanese House and Garden is proud to announce their major new exhibition Shofuso and Modernism: Mid-Century Collaboration between Japan and Philadelphia, accessible both physically and digitally from September 2-December 2020 (in accordance to U.S. Covid-19 guidance).

Organized by The Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia (JASGP) with support from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, the exhibition celebrates the friendships and transcultural exchanges between architect Junzo Yoshimura (1908-1997, Japan), woodworker George Nakashima (1905-1990, U.S.), designer Noémi Pernessin Raymond (1889-1980, Swiss French, born in Geneva) and architect Antonin Raymond (1888-1976, Czech), through their collaborative architectural projects. The exhibition is curated by Yuka Yokoyama and guest curator William Whitaker. 

Designed by the architect Junzo Yoshimura, Shofuso was constructed for the Museum of Modern Art in New York as the third installment of The House in the Museum Garden outdoor exhibition in 1954, before being moved to its permanent home in West Fairmount Park, Philadelphia. Shofuso provides an authentic re-creation of what is regarded as a definitive, and highly influential, movement in Japanese architecture. In Shofuso and Modernism: Mid-Century Collaboration between Japan and Philadelphia, the creative relationships which shaped and influenced the architect’s life are explored through archival images, objects, and artifacts from Yoshimura alongside Nakashima and the Raymonds.

Raymond’s drawing of Japanese carpenters (Shokunin) working at the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo in the 1920s, Yoshimura, Nakashima and the Raymonds’ architectural and design renderings from the 1930s, a toy chest Nakashima made for his daughter in the internment camp in Idaho in the 1940s, a series of archival documents from the original exhibition at MoMA and photographs from the family archive, are presented in a comprehensive online exhibition, alongside virtual tours of George Nakashima Woodworkers (New Hope, PA), Raymond Farm Centre for Living Arts and Design (New Hope, PA), and Shofuso itself.

In display within Shofuso are Noemi’s signature textiles—inspired by Japanese and American landscapes and culture—a table Nakashima made in the milk house at the Raymond Farm shortly after moving to New Hope from an internment camp and other collaboratively designed pieces such as chairs and lamps. Outside, traditional Japanese garden elements—based on Shokunin gardener Tansei Sano’s original plan for the West Fairmount Park site—express the harmonious cohabitation of nature and domesticity.

Prior to the construction of Shofuso, Yoshimura, Nakashima, and the Raymonds worked in Tokyo at the Raymond's architectural firm, realizing many of the now historic building projects of the Japanese landscape. The Raymonds then returned to the United States in 1938, followed by Yoshimura, where they worked together in New Hope, PA until 1941. The following year, as a result of the Japanese involvement in the second world war, George Nakashima’s family was deported from Seattle Washington to the Minidoka internment camp in Hunt Idaho. In 1943 Noémi and Antonin interceded, allowing the family to take refuge at the Raymonds’ Farm in New Hope, where George Nakashima eventually established his house, studio, and workshop. They remained friends throughout their lives.

It was the mutual respect for one another's work—their shared aesthetic and philosophical temperaments—that sustained the collaborators lifelong friendships, even through the most difficult times for Japan-America relations. Reflecting on contemporary trans-cultural discussions within the U.S. and globally, with particular focus on Japanese architecture, Shofuso and Modernism asserts the enduring importance of cross-collaborative dialogues today.

“A Japanese house resembles the evolution of a natural form. At every point it is related to an inner motive for which it has found an exact and fitting solution, not only practical but expressive of a profound understanding of the real value of life.

Compared to the Japanese, our love for Nature is very superficial. For him, she is the very key of existence. His concern not to betray her has been his safeguard throughout the ages, and at all times he turns to her as the infallible guide. He chooses materials which speak to her: Wood in its natural state, straw under the foot, sand on the walls. And his only architect up to recent years has been the carpenter, deft in handling them and respectful of their intrinsic qualities.”

-Antonin and Noemi Raymond, On Japanese Residence (1935).

Curator Yuka Yokoyama says “Our much anticipated Shofuso and Modernism exhibition was of course unexpectedly affected by the pandemic, but this new situation has allowed us to explore an accompanying online platform which expands on the extraordinary story of Yoshimura, Nakashima, Noemi and Antonin Raymond. Their lives were affected by difficult challenges as the world dramatically changed through the 20th century. Considering our current situation, I feel it is inspiring to revisit how their life principles reflected on creative form and the community that they live in."

A partnering educational program focuses on the themes of modern architecture and landscape, Japanese and American modern craft movements and Japanese American experience in Philadelphia. The program is held by Shofuso alongside partner institutions throughout the Philadelphia region, including George Nakashima Woodworkers, Raymond Farm Center for Living Arts and Design, The Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania (Upenn), Ueyakato Landscape, Kyoto and Wakita Museum in Karuizawa, Japan. Shofuso, a center for the Japanese creative communities around the Philadelphia region, also presents a series of lectures alongside a video documentary with family members, architectural scholars and historians, to accompany the exhibition.

About the Shofuso Japanese House and Garden
Shofuso is a 17th-century-style Japanese house and garden located in West Fairmount Park. Shofuso is open for weekday admissions to the public through October 31, Wednesdays through Fridays from 10am to 4pm and Saturdays and Sundays from 11am to 5pm. Shofuso is located at Horticultural and Lansdowne Drs., Philadelphia, PA 19131.  

About the Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia
The Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia is a private nonprofit organization that has brought Philadelphia and Japan closer together for more than 25 years through art, business, and culture. JASGP operates Shofuso, produces the Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival and presents the US-Japan Business and Public Policy Series, as well as other arts, business, culture, and educational programs for all ages.

The Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia presents JapanPhilly2020 to connect Philadelphia and Japan with a dynamic series of Japanese art, business, and cultural activities in 2020, which includes new and expanded programs as well as partnerships with numerous institutions for exhibitions, performances, and more.

About The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage
The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage is a multidisciplinary grant maker and hub for knowledge-sharing, funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, dedicated to fostering a vibrant cultural community in Greater Philadelphia. The Center invests in ambitious, imaginative, and catalytic work that showcases the region’s cultural vitality and enhances public life and engages in an exchange of ideas concerning artistic and interpretive practice with a broad network of cultural practitioners and leaders.

About George Nakashima Woodworkers (New Hope, PA)
In 1945, George Nakashima opened his woodworking business simply to earn a living using the skills he had learned as an Eagle Scout in the Pacific Northwest, as an architect in the Far East, and as a woodworker in the Idaho desert. They continue to custom-mill sustainably harvested hardwoods—maximizing both yield and their innate beauty—and to select the resulting planks individually for each project. They strive to create the “antiques of the future” as a collaborative, integrated process throughout which designer and maker work hand-in-hand, now guided by Mira Nakashima’s keen sensibility.

The Raymond Farm 
120 acres currently make up the Raymond Farm, which was purchased by Antonin and Noémi Raymond in 1938. The Raymonds were attracted to the property due to the sturdy construction of both the bank barn and Quaker farmhouse. Within a few years, the Raymonds had a bustling modern farm, which also served as an atelier where architects and artists came to hone their craft. The Raymond Farm was also home to the Raymonds' grandchildren and great grandchildren and is still managed by the Raymond family.

Pelham Communications T (646) 318-6618
Alison Andrea Lopez, alison [​at​] pelhamcommunications.com
Emma Gilhooly, emma [​at​] pelhamcommunications.com
IG @shofuso TW @JapanSocietyPHL FB @shofuso / #JapanPhilly2020

Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia
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