Currently on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is Kohei Nawa’s PixCell-Deer #24. As part of the “Designing Nature, the Rinpa Aesthetic in Japanese Art” exhibit this work can be seen through January 13. I discovered Kohei Nawa’s work when Scai The Bathhouse showed him for the first time in March of 2004 at the Armory Show. I couldn’t leave without purchasing his 2003 work PixCell (Toy-Stealth) 2003. I was mesmerized by the dark stealth bomber plane captured inside this intricate assemblage of glass beads and to date it’s one of my favorite pieces in my personal collection.
The scale and craftsmanship of the PixCell-Deer at the Met is worth the trip alone. Nawa completely transformed a taxidermied deer through various sized glass beads (PixCells), a term he invented. PixCell is the combination of cell and pixel, the smallest unit of a digital image. The sculpture was included in the current Rinpa show as it relates to a religious painting “Kasuga Deer Mandala”, which features a deer-the messenger animal of Shinto deities- posed similarly with its head turned to the side. Painters of the Rinpa school traditionally depicted the deer as a companion of ancient sages and had auspicious or poetic associations.
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