Synopses & Reviews
Japanese design is admired the world over, in part because it is so prominently incorporated into the ordinary, infusing scenes and objects of everyday life with a power to ascetically please. Contemplating its subtlety and strength can prove revelatory to those nurtured in Western artistic traditions, where design is often simply decoration created through symmetry and elaboration. Photographer Kenneth Straiton's Collection of extraordinary images or ordinary scenes provokes this revelation, training the viewer to look at design, and Japan, in a new way. The brief text, a preface by the photographer and a foreword by an authority on Japanese aesthetics, provides succinct context for the images, which are identified in captions at the end of the book. Although Japanese design works within a traditional and Asian framework, it seems to encompass all the essentials of Western Modernist style. Yet when one tries to define what exactly characterizes is, the attempt inevitably founders on exceptions. It is not one style or set of principles that sets Japanese design apart, yet there is undeniably, a common underlying quality; that surprising asymmetrical splash of color, which derives perhaps from Zen philosophy, may be a part of tradition that is handed down from China, but it has evolved far in a quintessentially Japanese way. Japanese also honor materials in a way that no other culture does; objects and architecture may at once be very humble and reflect the experience of poverty, while presenting a refinement so sophisticated that they deny the obvious and rich. And finally, of course, there is a spirituality that threads its way through all Japanese aesthetics, connecting it to natureand morality. This book is a comprehensive source-book of evidence for these many fascinating aspects of Japanese design, compiled by one who acknowledges that photographers are collectors by nature. Yet it is the images themselves, each spectacular in its own right, that have compelled Kenneth Straiton over the past two decades to document these creations I find profoundly moving in their genius--there is no other word for it.
Photographer Straiton's collection of extraordinary images of ordinary scenes reveals how Japanese design infuses scenes and objects of everyday life with a power to aesthetically please. The brief text, a preface by the photographer, and a foreword by Peter Grilli (Donald Keene Center for Japanese Studies, Columbia U.) provide context for the 155 beautiful color photographs (identified in captions at the end of the volume) that show how the Japanese honor materials in a way that no other culture does.