Exhibition – Zuan: Expressions of Modern Design in Early 20th Century Japanese Art – at Clark Center for Japanese Art and Culture, April 24 – July 31

Yumeji Leaves

Scattered frozen leaves (Shimoyo chiru) Takehisa Yumeji, Polychrome woodblock from the magazine The ladies` graphic (Fujin gurafu), published by Kokusai-sha, 1926. (Collection: Nihon no hanga, Amsterdam)

Sunday, April 25, 2 pm
Opening Lecture to the new exhibition
Zuan: Expressions of Modern Design in Early 20th Century Japanese Art

Conducted by Sabine Schenk, curator of this exhibition

This exhibition at the Clark Center for Japanese Art and Culture in Hanford, California, features art works reflecting a modern sense of design in the Japan of that time. Not only paintings and prints with a distinct pattern will be shown, but also forms of applied arts such as lacquer ware, ceramics and kimono and early graphic design on postcards, illustrations and posters. The visitor surely will be absorbed by the irresistible appeal of these works. Curated by Sabine Schenk, Curatorial Assistant

Cultural News, 2010 April Issue

The art world of early 20th century Japan was shaped by its search for a mode of expression between western influences and an almost forgotten indigenous tradition, as well as the introduced concept of academic fine arts and the heritage of magnificent craftsmanship.

One aspect of this quest was the development of design as a distinct form of artistic expression. This exhibition of works from the 1900s to the 1930s provides a unique chance for the visitor to encounter the roots of modern design in Japan, which is today one of the leading design forces in the world.

Zuan is one of the terms besides dezain formed at this time to describe this new notion of applied art. The term zuan refers to a design prototype to be applied on an object. These drafts and patterns have a long history in Japan.

In the early 20th century however, they not only had great popularity as a decorative element, but also were considered as artworks, mainly in the form of opulent design books. After the opening of Japan in the middle of the 19th century, Japanese artists started to absorb newly-accessible principles of western art, including the theories behind modern art and design as a form of applied art.

This development had an impact on the way contemporary artists saw themselves, and design became an important focus of artistic work. Many artworks from the late Meiji, Taisho and early Showa periods incorporated bold patterns and decorative effects into their subject matter.

Woodblock prints enjoyed a revival and were not only regarded a form of design themselves, but also integrated patterns and designs, thus amalgamating fine and applied arts.

Modern design was reflected in various media, including the bold textile patterns of the kimono fashions of the day.

Zuan features artists who are regarded as pioneers of modern design in Japan. The work of Hashiguchi Goyo (1880-1921), represented in this exhibition by two wonderful prints of Japanese beauties, also extended into the field of design and commercial arts.

Other artists like Takehisa Yumeji (1884-1934), who remains extremely popular in Japan today, started their careers in graphic design and applied arts. Kamisaka Sekka (1866-1942), a key figure in the world of early 20th century Japanese art, was one of several artists of his time who devoted their work entirely to a highly decorative style.

On display will be several pieces by Kamisaka Sekka which fuse the highly decorative style of the rimpa tradition and modern expressionism.

This exhibition allows viewers to appreciate the significance of the role of patterns and designs in picture books, art objects and applied decor in a variety of media. Prints, textiles, stencils, metal work and draft books from the Clark Center’s collection will be complemented by design books from Californian libraries, and works from the Japanese print collection Nihon no hanga in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

The Clark Center for Japanese Art and Culture is located at 15770 Tenth Ave, Hanford, CA 93230, (559) 582-4915, www.ccjac.org. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday 12:30 – 5 pm. Closed on national holidays and during the month of August. Admission are $5 for adults, $3 for students and active military service with valid ID. Children 12 and under free. Weekly docent tours are held Saturdays at 1 pm and guided group tours can be arranged by calling the Center in advance at (559) 582-4915.