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How Setsu Asakura Sets the Stage

February 07, 1988|ZAN DUBIN

Perhaps dramatic is the best word to describe a new exhibit at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center.

Composed of parts of stage sets, costumed mannequins and videotapes of live theatrical performances, "Contemporary Japanese Stage Design: The Art of Setsu Asakura" fills the George Doizaki Gallery with a series of Asakura's theatrical tableaux linked together by stairways and bridges.

The retrospective exhibit, through March 27, traces the career of Asakura, a leading Japanese stage and set designer. Her credits range from designs for Greek and Kabuki classics to those for contemporary American works.

Asakura began as a painter, winning the prestigious Belgian Salon du Printemps award in 1948. Feeling constrained by the medium, she began to design stage sets in pursuit of an aesthetic somewhere "in between painting and sculpture that also had a temporal element in it," said Robert Hori, who helped organize the exhibit.

"She was influenced by Western painting and prints, especially M. C. Escher, who has a lot of 3-D architectonic motifs in his work," said Hori, a former Doizaki gallery director now working on special projects there.

"Many of her sets were inspired by Escher and many contain spatial ambiguity and plays on depth and dimension," he said. "Many are also maze-like, using stairs and passages. Especially people who know Western painting will be intrigued by how a Japanese artist has extracted Western painting styles and adapted them to her own sensibility," Hori added.

The Asakura exhibit, here from its run in Tokyo on the first leg of an American tour, is the first collaborative project between the theater and art gallery at the Japanese American center. Last week, a production of "Utamaro: The Musical," with set designs by Asakura, was performed at the center's Japan America Theatre.

"Many exhibits don't really make sense or come alive unless you can see how they are actually used," said Hori, who hopes to stage an exhibit/performance by Japanese Bunraku puppet theater at the center.

SCHNABEL SHOW: The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art will host the only West Coast showing of the Julian Schnabel exhibition, a traveling show, Thursday through April 3.

"Julian Schnabel: Paintings 1975-1987," which began its American tour last November at the Whitney Museum in New York, contains about 30 large-scale paintings and one sculpture by the controversial artist--Schnabel has been called both one of his generation's greatest painters and an overrated minor artist.

CALLING ALL ARTISTS: Artists may submit written proposals for exterior artworks to be installed at San Diego's Health Services Complex.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors will select artists for the project. About $77,000 is available for commissions of two to six awards of $12,000 to $35,000.

All visual arts will be considered as well as art-oriented landscape designs and architectural installations. Water fixtures are not eligible. Special criteria will be required for art accessible to patients of the complex. Work should be durable and require little maintenance.

Proposals must be sent by Feb. 18 to County of San Diego, Department of General Services, 5555 Overland Ave., San Diego 92123, Attention: Ronald E. Moore (0-368).

In another competition, all artists working in traditional styles in any medium may submit their works for "The Traditionalists," a juried exhibit to be held April 16 to May 20 at the Brea Gallery of the Brea Civic and Cultural Center.

Juror Judi Freeman, associate curator of 20th-Century art at the County Museum of Art, will select 125 works for the exhibit. A series of cash and purchase awards will be presented.

Entry forms may be obtained at the Brea Civic and Cultural Center, or call (714) 990-7730.

DONATION: The La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art has received a $40,000 grant from the James Irvine Foundation for the purchase and installation of computer equipment. The money will be used for a computerization project, begun in 1986, that will enable the museum to improve its operations and management and to expand its fund-raising capacities. In 1986, the museum received a contribution from the Joseph W. Hibben Fund of the San Diego Community Foundation for the project.

NEW ACQUISITION: The J. Paul Getty Museum has recently added to its permanent collections "L'eternel feminin" (1839-1906), an oil painting depicting a nude woman seated within a circle of enraptured males by French Impressionist Paul Cezanne.

In the work, the Getty's third by the artist, Cezanne "exhibits the careful, constructive brush stroke that characterizes his late still lifes and landscapes," notes a museum statement. "At the same time, the painting shows him still fascinated by deeply personal issues of sexuality; he distances himself from direct expression, however, conceiving the scene as an allegory whose significance--for male viewers, at least--is held to be universal."

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