Japanese Prints Tell the Story of Modern Japan in Exhibition at the Ringling Museum

SARASOTA.- Selected works from the Ringling Museum’s important collection of Japanese shin hanga and sosaku hanga woodblock prints, dating from the first half of the 20th century, are presented in Tradition and Transformation: Modern Masters of the Japanese Print, through January 4, 2009 in the Ulla R. and Arthur F. Searing Wing.

“We are committed to building awareness of Asian art at the Museum,” said Dr. John Wetenhall Executive Director of the Ringling Museum. “It is our hope that the Ringling Museum of Art will be recognized not only for its strength in Baroque and Renaissance art, but also for our breadth and quality of Asian art.”

Woodblock printing is an ancient art of Japan, dating back to the Nara period (710-784). Two woodblock print movements, shin hanga and sosaku hanga, emerged during the twentieth century, each reflecting the unique range of tastes, talents and interests of Japan’s modern culture, yet echoing the traditions of their ancestors.

Artists of the shin hanga or “new prints” movement present the modern beauty of Japan and Japanese culture using the traditional collaborative methods of their ancestors. In efforts to popularize their work, these artists incorporated Western aesthetic elements into their prints.

These elements included a greater sense of perspective, color gradation and the inclusion of an expanded spectrum of subject matter indicative of modern life such as utility poles and industrial symbols.

Artists of the sosaku hanga or “creative prints” movement are less traditional than the shin hanga artists. An earthquake in 1923 destroyed Tokyo and became the catalyst for the sosaka hanga movement. Mimicking the city’s resurrection through use of concrete and steel versus traditional wooden structures, artists of the sosaku hanga movement rebuilt woodblock printing on modern terms. Using the same medium, the artists became more individualistic in their methods as well as in their subject matter, content and aesthetic qualities and representation.

Tradition and Transformation features 40 examples of shin hanga and sosaku hanga from the Ringling’s permanent collection and includes such noteworthy artists such as Kiyoshi Saito and Koshiro Onchi.


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