With the Grain: Japanese Woodblock Prints from the Postwar Years

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With the Grain: Japanese Woodblock Prints in the Postwar Years, installation at Krannert Art Museum, 2015
With the Grain: Japanese Woodblock Prints in the Postwar Years, installation at Krannert Art Museum, 2015

s2015_WithTheGrain_opening_p1.jpg

With the Grain: Japanese Woodblock Prints in the Postwar Years, installation at Krannert Art Museum, 2015
With the Grain: Japanese Woodblock Prints in the Postwar Years, installation at Krannert Art Museum, 2015

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With the Grain: Japanese Woodblock Prints in the Postwar Years, installation at Krannert Art Museum, 2015
With the Grain: Japanese Woodblock Prints in the Postwar Years, installation at Krannert Art Museum, 2015

Exhibition

On view
Aug 28, 2014 to Jul 25, 2015
Main Level, Asian Gallery

Printmaking flourished in Japan during the Allied Occupation (1945–52), despite the devastation of the war, which had left its mark not only in the burnt ruins of Tokyo but also in the faces of a starving population. Woodblock prints—together with dolls, fans, silks, and sake cups—were sought after as souvenirs among the nearly half million American soldiers stationed in Occupied Japan in 1946. Collectors from the United States also scrambled for choice finds, following the example of late nineteenth-century aficionados of ukiyo-e (“pictures of the floating world”), which seemed to capture the allure of courtesans and actors who inhabited a strange and distant land.

Modern Japanese woodblock prints, however, presented collectors with striking diversity. Shin hanga (“new prints”), established during the 1920s and 1930s, adhered to the old-fashioned idioms of ukiyo-e; they were also produced by commercial publishing houses. By contrast, artists such as Onchi Kōshirō advocated an entirely different way of making woodblock prints. Beginning in 1918, Onchi and his followers designed, carved, and printed their own images. Thus, their work came to be known as sōsaku hanga, “creative prints.” Herein lies the focus of this exhibition.

Rather than use the woodblock to re-create aspects of a painting, sōsaku hanga printmakers called for the reinvention of the print medium. The marks of carving tools were left undisguised. Paper might be sized or left unsized to allow pigments to bleed into the fibers of the paper. Stray objects—leaves, fabric, pieces of string, planks of wood cut with the grain—were colored and pressed against paper to make tinted impressions of varied textures and shapes.

This exhibition features the work of sosaku hanga artists from the late 1950s and 1960s. To clarify their singular manipulations of the print medium, examples of traditional ukiyo-e and modern shin hanga are also on display. The work of foreign print artists who worked in Japan—Paul Jacoulet and Clifton Karu—underscores both the diversity that modern Japanese prints inspired and the enduring identity of the woodcut with Japan.

 

Curator: Anne Burkus-Chasson, associate professor of Art History

Exhibition sponsored in part by Fred and Donna Giertz

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Provenance: A Forensic History of Art, installation at Krannert Art Museum, 2017.
  1. May 13, 2017 to Jun 2, 2018
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Allan deSouza, Borough Boogie Woogie, 2016. Digital print on Hahnemuhle paper. 24 x 36 in. © Allan deSouza
  1. Jan 25, 2018 to Jul 14, 2018
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