The Master of KOKESHI!
by Véronique Dupard-Mandel
Posted on April 17, 2022
Marceline Loridan-Ivens said that we are at the age of our trauma. When you meet José Lévy, you can also think that you are at the age of his enchantment.
Thus, it would be possible that José's childhood, with grandparents immersed in culture and the art of living Japanese has enchanted him forever. And, that he retains an irresistible desire to enchant us in turn.
His fascination for Kokeshis, these little ancestral dolls in lacquered wood without arms or legs that make us think of bowling pins, he transposed it into an ultra-contemporary and even meta-futuristic world.
Thus the designer-plastician, has created, in collaboration with the Leblon Delienne house, five stylized Kokeshis, oversized (from 90 cm to 2.80 m), black like a painting by Soulages, matte or ultra shiny, of different materials (leather , burnt wood, lacquers, resins).
This first series is captivating: placed on a floor that could be marble, in diamond point, tatami or giant chessboard, they look like a small courtyard. We imagine this Queen or princess and these subjects, favorites or ladies… Rook, Bishop, Knight or simple Pawn. Perhaps because these dolls, seemingly innocent, hide a more complex identity. In the Japanese tradition, the pretty and nice Kokeshi, made in the wood of the forests of the North-West (Tōhoku region) place where shamanic traditions still persist today, have indeed a plural function. “Kawaii” and Worrying. According to popular legend they guarantee wisdom, good health, a fulfilled life, they were offered to children at the beginning of winter and on sunny days they were burned. But it is also common to send them in place of a child who did not come, or who did not come, in this we find similarities with the cultures of the Hopi Indians of Arizona and their "Kashina" or many Yorubas of Nigeria and their “Ibedji” celebrating the cult of twins.
It would therefore be possible that all these representations of spirits, pranksters, mischievous, benevolent or malevolent, constitute a sort of inventory of the visible and invisible world. It is therefore logical that, thanks to a pandemic which paralyzed the Kokeshi project of José Lévy and Juliette de Blegiers, the very spirit of JL, would have been bewitched. Letting emerge, for our greatest happiness, forty-six new virtual silhouettes. These colorful and turbulent, those twirling like a dervish or a spinning top and finished in the form of NFT.