Wednesday, November 3, 2010

“Japanesque: The Japanese Print in the Era of Impressionism” at the Legion of Honor.

by Ekaterina Levina

The exhibit is very informative about the development of the Japanese print over two centuries (1700-1900) and its influence on Western art with its three sections: Evolution, Essence and Influence. A special education gallery within the exhibition shows a video about how prints are made - from making paper to printing. The “artist studio” includes three stations of an artist, a carver and a printer with woodblocks, tools, and preparatory drawings. A display of progressive color prints over wood plates demonstrates the process of designing, carving and printing color woodcuts. As usual I like the most a picture in the middle of the process and not the finished one. I prefer to have something left to the imagination.

The exhibit does a lot to evoke a sense of wonder and appreciation about this old art technique and precise craftsmanship. I was surprised to discover that it takes three people – one artist and two craftsmen - to produce a print. I wouldn’t mind to be that artist… Prints are done in brilliant colors with sophisticated compositions and in variety of subjects.

One print struck me with its straightforward image. A couple is making love. Both are partially nude but not because of modesty or shame but rather to be warm in a chilly bedroom. Nothing is hidden, obscure, and subtle or has a double meaning. The scene is clear and detailed but at the same time it’s sensual, passionate, intimate and poetic.

I told my girlfriend from Indonesia about this print and my impressions of it. She wasn’t amazed as I was and she said “In the East love it celebrated”. It definitely shows. I haven’t seen anything like this in the Western art. It’s an inspiring and beautiful art piece to keep in a bedroom.

“A Couple Making Love”, detail, by Katsushika Hokusai, ca. 1814

No comments: