For decades, the Art Institute has been at the forefront of collecting contemporary works by Japanese artists. Over 50 years ago it was one of the first museums to hold exhibitions of works by contemporary Japanese print artists who had revived an art form unpopular in their homeland, and today contemporary art is the fastest-growing area of the museum’s Japanese art collection. Bringing together significant acquisitions from the last two years, never before displayed at the museum, this exhibition showcases works of contemporary Japanese art that quote from the country’s rich past.
The ceramics on view focus on those that date from the 1960s through the last few years and either complement works already in the collection or add an entirely new understanding of the artists’ careers. The aesthetics of folk art permeate the ceramics by modern masters Hamada Shōji (1894–1978) and Kawai Kanjirō (1890–1966), while works by today’s ceramic artists, including a large jar by Kohara Yasuhiro (born 1954) and a plate by Hagiwara Yoshinori (born 1974), show that younger artists are still intrigued and challenged by the work of the humble craftsperson, now unabashedly heightened to fine art.
The exhibition also includes innovative prints by artists such as Yoshida Ayomi (born 1958), whose work is ever expanding the possibilities of woodblock printing. In her Touches series, Yoshida graphically expresses the rhythm and pattern of water by abstracting the play of light on the water’s surface with vertical strokes carved into the block. The colors used and the order in which they are applied are recorded in the three letters included in the title of each print.
While clearly evocative of the past—created through time-honored techniques or referencing traditional art forms—the works on display in this exhibition reflect a strong modern sensibility that surely will foster a new appreciation for the art of craft.