Art for the People: Modern Japanese Prints by Munkata Shikō

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    Munakata Shikö (1903-1975), Self-portrait, Japan, Shöwa period, 1960. Woodblock print, Purchase, 1976

June 04, 2009 - August 02, 2009
Robert F. Lange Foundation Gallery (21)


Exhibition Overview

One of the leading modern printmakers in post-war Japan, Munakata Shikō (1903-1975) became internationally recognized after receiving the first prize at the São Paulo Biennial in 1955. His works are often described as powerful, dynamic, and spiritual, and were highly praised by Yanagi Sōetsu (1889-1961), the influential art critic and philosopher who established the Mingei (folk art) movement in the late 1920s. Inspired by socialist ideas and Zen Buddhism, Yanagi suggested that beauty should exist in mundane, utilitarian objects created by unknown craftsmen for members of all levels of society.   

Although Munakata became a famed artist, Yanagi considered him to be a selfless artisan. About his own work, Munakata once said: “Any self-conscious effort to create something beautiful can only be a pretense, and craving for recognition can lead to nothing good. True art must be pure and simple…when I work, the tool doesn’t follow my mind. The mind itself goes, and the tool walks alone, only when that happens can art be genuine.”

Approximately 30 Munakata prints, many of which depict Buddhist-related subjects, will be displayed in Art for the People. This exhibition is held in conjunction with Mingei: Yanagi Sōetsu and the Folk Art Movement, which will be on view in the Japan Gallery (20) from May 28 to September 6. It is the first collaborative project between the Academy’s Asian Art Department and the University of Hawai‘i.—SAWAKO CHANG, Japanese Art Imaging Project Manager & Research Assistant, Asian Art Department