Word and Image: Textual References in Japanese Abstract Prints

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    Maki Haku (1924–2000). 'Tortoise–A,' Japan, 1977. Woodblock print; ink and color on paper with blind embossing Gift of James and Mari Imai in memory of Masahide and June Natsu Imai, 2005. (28173)

July 12, 2018 - August 26, 2018
Honolulu Museum of Art


Exhibition Overview

While to some extent influenced by Western artists such as the Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky (1866–1944) and the American photographer Man Ray (1890–1976), Japanese print artists in the 20th century who explored non-objective abstraction also drew inspiration from their own artistic heritage, including the written Japanese language. Ideographs (kanji) imported from Chinese as well as two indigenous, phonetic syllabaries—the fluid shapes of hiragana and the more angular strokes of katakana—offer Japanese artists a rich, complex vocabulary of abstract icons. Presented here are bold, monochromatic works by the print designer Maki Haku (1924–2000) that hover somewhere between the realms of imagery and calligraphy. In the alcove of the adjacent Japan Gallery can be found similar black-and-white compositions by Maki Haku’s predecessor Onchi Kōshirō (1891–1955) and Maki’s contemporary, Saitō Kiyoshi (1907–1997).