Exhibition Inspired by Ancient Japanese Woodworking Technique to be on Display at The Parthenon

photo from Parthenon/Centennial Park Conservancy

The Parthenon and Centennial Park Conservancy announced David Gootnick: Contemporary Kumiko, an exhibition of works inspired by kumiko, an ancient Japanese woodworking technique. The show will be on display in the East Gallery of the Parthenon from July 26 to December 1. A free opening reception will take place July 25 at the Parthenon from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Kumiko was developed roughly 1,400 years ago as Buddhist-influenced architecture was brought from mainland Asia to Japan. Traditionally, kumiko has most commonly been used on ornamental shoji screens and decorative features of traditional Japanese homes.
Kumiko works are made by arranging many narrow pieces of wood into intricate geometric designs and patterns. The tiny pieces are often fitted together with tweezers and held in place through the use of angles, grooves, and tension. Traditional kumiko is made with Japanese cedar and cypress, and Gootnick mostly uses yellow cedar from Alaska, which he says is one of the closest analogs in North America to the traditional woods. The design motifs are often linked to nature and have symbolic meaning, inspired by science. Gootnick has built upon this tradition, with three new works: RNA, Mitochondria, and DNA.

“David Gootnick’s work is a harmonious blend of the ancient and the contemporary,” said Parthenon Curator Jennifer Richardson. “While this art form developed without any direct connection to ancient Greek art, there are several shared ideals such as attention to detail, striving for perfection, and symmetrical balance. His newest work, Meandros, uses a motif we often recognize as the Greek key or meander but it has been in use since prehistoric times. We are excited to host this exhibition at the Parthenon, where visitors can explore the similarities between these artforms, which sprang from very different cultures but reflect a common aesthetic sense and passion for precision.”

While Gootnick was pursuing his BFA at Harvard University in the mid-1970s, he held a life-transforming apprenticeship with Donald Warnock, helping the master luthier restore a Baroque-era instrument for the Renwick Gallery in Washington D.C. and helping teach instrument-making at Boston University. This experience fired Gootnick’s love of woodcraft, and he went on to pursue additional internships with master luthiers Bernie Lehman and Curtis Bryant.

Gootnick began studying kumiko in 2015, falling in love with the intricate patterns and the emphasis on geometry and symmetry. He pursues his craft from a serene, self-built studio at his home in Washington D.C.

A free opening reception will be held on July 25 at the Parthenon from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Guests may RSVP via the website. For more information on the exhibit, please visit www.nashvilleparthenon.com/events/david-gootnick.

Subscribe to our FREE Newsletter