This intimate exhibition examines the resurgence and reassessment of Japanese printmaking in the first two decades after World War II. During this period of intense activity, print artists pursued aesthetic developments from the prewar years with renewed vigor and looked beyond Japan to investigate foreign techniques and subjects.
In the process, the second-generation artists associated with the modernist sosaku hanga (“creative print”) movement shifted printmaking from the collaborative endeavor of ukiyo-e (“floating world”) woodcuts to one where an individual artist alone designed, cut, and printed the wooden block. A few innovators turned their attention to other traditional Japanese print forms as sources of inspiration—the colorful stencil print used in fabric and decorative paper designs, for example—but considered their models in unconventional ways. In addition, some Japanese printmakers discovered anew elements of abstraction in their own cultural past, paradoxically, via Western avant-garde artistic movements like Cubism, Expressionism, and Abstract Expressionism.
Renewal and Revision explores these diverse and inventive approaches to printmaking in Japan in the 1950s and 60s through woodblock, mezzotint, and stencil prints from the Smart Museum’s collection.