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1853-2003:  A Sesquicentennial Salute to Commerce and Cultural Exchange between Japan and the USA
through December 30, 2003
Third Floor Gallery
Curated by William J. Dane
This exhibition of 20th century Japanese works of art on paper is made up of over 100 works including original prints, hand-cut stencils, award-winning posters, and illustrated books which are called “ehon” in Japan. All the items which are sometimes rare, are selected from The Library’s Special Collections Division and have been assembled over the past 101 years. The historic occasion which adds particular significance to the exhibit is the Sesquicentennial of the American Commodore Perry’s visit to Japan in 1853 and the signing of the Treaty of Kanagawa which opened up commerce between Japan and the U.S.A. in 1854. This ultimately made Japan a world power after two centuries of nearly total self-imposed isolation from foreign visitors and non-Japanese concepts and traditions.
Genroku, lithograph with handcoloring by Toko Shinoda, 1992.

The display is especially strong in prints created by contemporary Japanese graphic artists from 1960 to today. These stunning and highly accomplished works are sometimes realistic, but more likely, they are abstract and non-objective in composition with wonderful colors sometimes in silver and gold leaf. Prints by artists such as Yoshitoshi Mori, Shigeki Kuroda (born in 1953), Katsunori Hamanishi (born in 1949), Yoshikatsu Tamekani (born in 1959), Shinichi Nakazawa, and Yuichi Hasegawa (born in 1945) are shown. The graphic works by these supremely talented artists are collected today throughout the world as well as in Japan and at The Newark Public Library. Of particular note, are prints by the celebrated woman artist, Toko Shinoda, who has been declared a National Treasure in Japan. She was born in Manchuria in 1913 and has spent most of her creative life in Japan where she usually adds strong accents of sumi ink to her prints. Her work has been part of the annual print shows in Tokyo sponsored by The College Women’s Association of Japan for 31 years.

Blue Box, color etching by Shigeki Kuroda.

Artists working in the early decades of the 20th century include Foujita (1886-1968), Hasui (1883-1957) who lost most of his prints and printing blocks in the 1923 Tokyo earthquake, and Yasuo Kuniyoshi (1893-1953). Several American and European artists have traveled to Japan over the past century and avidly studied with Japanese master printers and graphic artists to learn their special techniques and traditions. These artists include Lilian Miller, Carol Jensen who is involved in the making of hand-produced papers, Clifton Karhu who was born in Minnesota and has lived in Japan since 1955 creating prints of the manners and customs of Japan as well as domestic and small-scale architectural structures, and Willy Seiler from Germany who taught American Army personnel at The Tokyo Army College in late 1940s. Other prints by contemporary artists include works by Joshua Rome and Sarah Brayer who was born in New York City in 1957.

Chatter Boxes, etching with watercolor by Willy Seiler.

A group of stunning commercial posters is displayed. These prize winning posters from Japanese designers were circulated in Japan and the U.S.a. some years ago by the Japan Society of New York. In 1985 at the end of their tour, these posters were donated to The Newark Public Library by The Japan Society as examples of the best in Japanese advertising art of the era.

Hong Kong Junk, color woodblock print in the Japanese manner by Lilian Miller, 1928.

E-hon, Japanese illustrated books, hold an important position in the scope of Japanese art. These books of pictures, books that were looked at simply for their pictures, with minimal or no text, make an art form almost peculiar to Japan. All schools of Japanese art are represented in e-hon, including many individual masters whose drawings and woodblock prints can be found in both illustrated literary texts and volumes that were entirely the artist’s work. Topics of books shown at The Library are textile patterns for kimonos, the antique toys from Japan, designs taken from pine trees, occupations and diversions of the women of the Yoshiwara throughout Japan, and detailed visual descriptions of Japanese interior spaces as published in 1904. A selection of recently published Arts of Japan reference books are shown at The Library in this special salute which was organized by William J. Dane, Supervisor of the Library’s Special Collections Division.

Toy Horse from A Collection of Japanese Antique Toys by Shimizu Sheifu.

The exhibit is open through December 30, 2003 without fees of any kind during regular hours for the Autumn-Winter Season of 2003-2004 which are Monday, Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.


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