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Jacket liner with masked dancers design

Jacket liner with masked dancers design (c. 1930s), printed silk [Asian Art Museum, Seattle WA, May 10-Oct 19] Courtesy of The Levenson Collection

Deco Japan: Shaping Art and Culture, 1920-1945

Asian Art Museum
Seattle WA – May 10-Oct 19, 2014

Songbook for “Song of the Milky Way” from the Shxchiku film Milky Way

Songbook for “Song of the Milky Way” from the Shōchiku film Milky Way (1931), colour lithograph, inks on paper [Asian Art Museum, Seattle WA, May 10-Oct 19] Courtesy of The Levenson Collection

The Art Deco movement thrived in the 20th-century period between World War I and II, leaving a stylistic mark on several facets of art, architecture and design throughout the world. This travelling exhibit is the first outside Tokyo to focus on Japanese art in the Deco style from 1920 through 1945 – a distinct time of social and political change in Japan, informed by the complexities of rapid industrialization in the face of traditional ideologies particular to the previously insular nation.

This little-known and under-examined look at Japan’s pre-WWII modernism presents many sophisticated examples of craftsmanship and design in a broad range of materials. Included here are stunning pieces of metalwork, lacquerware, furniture, textiles, ceramics, jewellery, glass and sculpture. Ephemera such as sheet music, posters, prints and photography also show an evocative side to this dramatic cultural period in Japan, during the Taisho and early Showa eras.

The nearly 200 pieces in this exhibit (from the collection of Florida-based Robert and Mary Levenson) radiate the nation’s cosmopolitan identity through a lens of artists and consumers, while elements of Japan’s history create a unique yet tenuous aestheticism. Blending a Western version of modernity with diverse formal concerns and cultural attitudes, Japan’s Art Deco period also bred a concept of the modern girl, or moga, who embraced the confidence and vitality of urban chic associated with the Jazz age. This concept is highlighted in a section of the exhibit where the significant shifts in Japanese culture before, during and after this time are most evident.

Allyn Cantor


Futagi Seihx, decorative box with "Bird of Paradise”

Futagi Seihō, decorative box with "Bird of Paradise” (ca. 1942), lacquered wood, shell inlay, silver rims [Asian Art Museum, Seattle WA, May 10-Oct 19] Courtesy of The Levenson Collection


 Sun, Apr 6, 2014