1/18/2016 4:39:12 PM
Subject: Japanese art at the LACMA
Recently, I spent a glorious day wandering the LACMA. I was pleasantly surprised to find a number of beautiful Japanese exhibits. Here is a brief overlay of each if anyone is craving a museum day.
-Japanese Paintings: figures from life and allegory.
This exhibition explores feminine beauty in the ukiyo-e (pictures of the floating world) manner, inspired by fashion trends popular in the entertainment quarters of Edo. As Japan’s shogunal capital from 1603 to 1868, Edo (now Tokyo) had a predominantly male population, with a huge contingent of samurai and tradesmen who catered to them; in this male-dominated environment, images of womanly allure became very popular.
-Living for the Moment: Japanese Prints
This exhibit has over a hundred prints - rare early prints of the genre known as ukiyo-e (oo-key-o-eh, pictures of the floating world); superior works from the golden age of that art form at the end of the 18th century by Suzuki Harunobu, Kitagawa Utamaro, and Katsukawa Shunshō; and 19th-century prints by such great masters as Utagawa Hiroshige, Katsushika Hokusai, Utagawa Kuniyoshi, and others. During the Edo period (1615–1868), commercially printed ukiyo-e showed the sensualist priorities of Japanese at a time when a shogunal government restricted nearly all aspects of life. Pictures of entertainers, from the brothels or the theaters, were favored subjects. Unconventional poetry appeared on a subgenre of ukiyo-e called surimono, which were privately published and distributed, often at the New Year. Unlike commercial prints, censored for their content and quality, surimono could be made with luxury materials, such as metallic pigments.
-Screens, Scrolls and Prints
In 1965, architect Frank Gehry designed his first exhibition for LACMA, for Art Treasures from Japan, organized by the museum’s curator of Asian Art, George Kuwayama. Gehry’s sensitive design featured elements of Japanese architecture (rock gardens, wood post and beam construction for the barriers protecting sculptures, and dedicated niches for the art.) The architect alluded to low ceilings typical of Japan’s domestic architecture through cloth that delicately canopied from the ceiling. Fifty years and eleven LACMA exhibitions later, the museum asked Gehry to reprise his role designing a presentation of Japanese art, with the selection of a small group of screens, scrolls, and prints from LACMA’s permanent collection. The exhibition features works that employ paper as their support, and highlights the extraordinary diversity of styles, subject matter, and artistic techniques found in Japanese art from the 15th to early 20th centuries.