Shape & Spirit: Selections from the Lutz Bamboo Collection

Shape & Spirit: Selections from the Lutz Bamboo Collection
Denver Art Museum
September 26, 2009 – September 19, 2010

Iizuka Rokansai


Beauty and function meet in the newly installed Walter + Mona Lutz Gallery in the fifth level Asian art space in the Denver Art Museum’s North Building. The inaugural exhibition, Shape & Spirit: Selections from the Lutz Bamboo Collection, opening September 26, 2009, showcases the wonder of bamboo through more than 200 objects that capture the spirit and cultural character of their makers. Woven baskets, carved figures and everyday tools are displayed in the new space designated for bamboo pieces from East Asia. All objects on view are from the extensive Lutz Bamboo Collection at the DAM.

“Bamboo is a plentiful natural resource in East Asia that people can build with, carve, weave and create many useful objects,” said Ronald Otsuka, who was recently endowed as the Dr. Joseph de Heer Curator of Asian Art. “It also holds a spiritual quality that signifies human strength and resilience, making it a sought after material.”

The gallery will feature artwork from China, Japan and Korea displaying the numerous varieties of bamboo used throughout the countries and symbols important to each culture. Visitors will see how styles and uses have evolved over time and discover how bamboo is being handled by 20th century artists. Although many pieces by named artists will be exhibited, most objects are anonymously produced.

“When an artist signs a name on a piece of work, it is no longer the art of real people,” Otsuka explained, referring to the mingei movement in Japan. “Therefore, the only true art is the art of the people.”

Asian Art Collection
Reflecting the rich diversity and wide-ranging artistic expression of a complex and expansive area of the world, Asian art from the Museum’s collection is displayed geographically and thematically. The collection originated in 1915 with a pledge of Chinese and Japanese art objects and has broadened to include works from the entire Asian continent.
Outstanding ceramics, furniture, metalwork, painting and sculpture from the Near and Middle East, India, Tibet, Nepal, China, Japan and Korea are on view. Spanning a period from the fourth millennium B.C. to the present, these objects illustrate the wide-ranging achievements of Asian artists and artisans. Exemplary items of material culture, such as samurai armor, Indonesian puppets and Chinese court robes, are on view and used in innovative educational programs that focus on Asian civilization. In 2009, long-time Asian Art Association member Dr. Joseph de Heer left a generous bequest to the Asian art department in addition to his collection of 20th-century Japanese prints. The DAM established an endowment for the position of curator of Asian art in de Heer’s name to honor his interest in Asian art and culture.

Denver Art Museum