An exhibition of high quality reproduction prints, taken from woodblocks created by the acclaimed 18th century artist Sharaku presented alongside interpretative works by contemporary Japanese graphic and fine artists, opens at the Tennessee State Museum
on February 18. Sharaku Interpreted by Japans Contemporary Artists, which is free to the public, is sponsored by the Consulate-General of Japan and The Japan Foundation.
The exhibition takes as its theme Toshusai Sharaku, known throughout Japan and the world for his bust portraits of Kabuki actors. Sharaku is widely considered to be one of the great masters of ukiyo-e (woodblock) printing in Japan. Little is actually known of him; neither his true name nor the dates of his birth or death are known with any certainty. His active career as a woodblock artist seems to have spanned just 10 months in the mid-Edo period of Japanese history, from middle 1794 to early 1795.
Apart from the original copies of Sharakus prints, the exhibition includes works of 11 contemporary Japanese artists who have freely interpreted this Japanese master in the form of paintings and three-dimensional art. This exhibition illustrates the influence of Sharakus ukiyo-e prints on Japans current graphic designers and contemporary artists.
The exhibition includes 81 works and is divided into three sections that are entitled: Reproductions of Sharaku, Sharaku in Graphic Art and Homage to Sharaku. The first section includes 28 original copies of Toshusai Sharakus ukiyo-e prints, which have been reproduced from the original woodblocks by the Adachi Institute of Woodcut Prints.
In the second section of the exhibit which includes 28 graphic art works, leading Japanese graphic designers pay homage to Sharaku in posters which underscore the formalistic links between the ukiyo-e tradition and the development of the graphic art in Japan.
The third section includes 25 pieces where contemporary Japanese artists reflect the influence of Sharakus work, each responding in their own personal way, through the use of painting, sculpture, and ceramics.