Sharpened Imagination: Creative Printmakers in Japan

Exhibition Review

  • "Hanga Now: Contemporary Japanese Printmakers"

  • University of Saint Joseph Art Museum West Hartford, CT
  • 23 Sep 2016 - 18 Dec 2016

Hamanishi Katsunori, Japanese Classic Calendar (2015), mezzotint printed in color, each panel 59.6 x 36.1 cm (quadriptych). Art Museum, University of Saint Joseph, West Hartford, CT. Purchase with a gift from Edwina Bosco ’50. ©Hamanishi Katsunori.

Attenuated lines, shimmering gilding, gossamer textures and deft compositions suffused the exhibition “Hanga Now: Contemporary Japanese Printmakers” at the University of Saint Joseph in Hartford. More than 60 woodcuts, etchings, lithographs and monotypes by 35 artists—most produced during the past 25 years—attest to the ongoing vitality of Japan’s sōsaku-hanga (creative print) movement. Selected by curator Ann Sievers, these prints do not ask the viewer to gaze from afar; they beckon us closer.

The famous ukiyo-e prints of the 18th and 19th centuries are often aesthetically pleasing but were intended as commercial products, made to reflect the market rather than personal expression, and they were produced through a system of specialized painters, block cutters, printers and publishers, working in separate stages. In the first decade of the 20th century, however, artists such as Hakutei Ishii, Kanae Yamamoto and Kogan Tobari adopted the European practice of designing, cutting and printing their own works in small editions.

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