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Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III), Superb Edo Pictures Illustrating Dances: Interior of the Kabuki Theatre

Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III), Superb Edo Pictures Illustrating Dances: Interior of the Kabuki Theatre (c.1858), woodblock print [West Vancouver Museum, West Vancouver BC, Jan 10-Mar 22, Nikkei National Museum, Burnaby BC, Jan 11-Mar 23]

Ukiyoe Spectacular:
Japanese Woodblock Prints from the 1800s

West Vancouver Museum
West Vancouver BC – Jan 10-Mar 22, 2014
Nikkei National Museum
Burnaby BC – Jan 11-Mar 23, 2014

Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Turtles with Actor’s Expressions

Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Turtles with Actor’s Expressions (c. 1848), woodblock print [West Vancouver Museum, West Vancouver BC, Jan 10-Mar 22, Nikkei National Museum, Burnaby BC, Jan 11-Mar 23]


Utagawa Yoshifuji, Fukusuke

Utagawa Yoshifuji, Fukusuke (c. 1847-1852), woodblock print [West Vancouver Museum, West Vancouver BC, Jan 10-Mar 22, Nikkei National Museum, Burnaby BC, Jan 11-Mar 23]


Utagawa Yoshifuji, The Cat-Witch from the Fifty-Three Stages

Utagawa Yoshifuji, The Cat-Witch from the Fifty-Three Stages (c. 1848-1849), woodblock print [West Vancouver Museum, West Vancouver BC, Jan 10-Mar 22, Nikkei National Museum, Burnaby BC, Jan 11-Mar 23]


Utagawa Hiroshige, Improvised Shadow Play - Lantern

Utagawa Hiroshige, Improvised Shadow Play - Lantern (c.1840-1842), woodblock print [West Vancouver Museum, West Vancouver BC, Jan 10-Mar 22, Nikkei National Museum, Burnaby BC, Jan 11-Mar 23]

Today’s image-saturated, present-tense digital culture shows little interest in what happened five minutes ago, let alone 500 years ago. For younger North Americans, Japan is more likely to arrive through a manga comic than a Mishima novel. Interesting, then, that a 19th-century Japanese art form can still feel as relevant today as it was when it emerged.

Rarely seen in North America, ukiyoe prints are from Japan’s Edo (1603–1868) and Meiji (1868–1912) periods. In this exhibit, the works portray a range of situations in ways from which a contemporary sensibility can still be drawn. The roots of manga are certainly present in Utagawa Yoshifuji’s Fukusuke (c. 1847–1852), with its big-eyed weeping geisha, and in the formal approximations of Utagawa Hiroshige’s self-explanatory Improvised Shadow Play – Lantern (c. 1840–1842).

The word ukiyoe, which translates into English as “pictures of a floating world,” might be taken to mean that we must enjoy life while it lasts. The situations depicted in many of these pictures capture that sense, such as Kuniyoshi’s Turtles with Actors’ Expressions (c. 1848), where the subjects hover over an undefined monochromatic ground.

westvancouvermuseum.ca
centre.nikkeiplace.org

Michael Turner


 Thu, Feb 6, 2014