Japanese printmaker Onchi Koshiro(1892-1955) helped to revolutionize Japanese printmaking before and after World War II as a leader of the sosaku hanga creative print movement. Abandoning the tradition of specialists handling different steps in the printmaking process, Onchi and his peers chose to conceive, carve and print their own works.
Onchi went on to pioneer the printing of abstract designs, which are the focus of the Art Institute of Chicago
s exhibition Onchi Koshiro: The Abstract Prints, on view July 19 through October 5, 2014 in Gallery 107.
Heavily influenced by the work of Western artists Wassily Kandinsky and Edvard Munch, Onchi said printmaking was the best way to create abstract art because it was the most removed from the artists hand or brush and needed precision and forethought in construction and composition. He created his work using a variety of materials, including wood, wax paper, cardboard, string and other found items, as his blocks from which to print. He was not interested in the idea of multiples and often produced just a few editions of his abstract works before destroying the printing blocks.
Very little of Onchis work is in private hands, and the Art Institute of Chicago is one of the few museums with significant holdings of his prints. Illinois native Oliver Statler, an army employee in Japan during the Occupation, was a close friend of Onchi's and a proponent of the sosaku hanga movement. He gave a large portion of his personal collection to the Art Institute in the 1960s and was the intermediary in sales of Onchis works to Chicago collectors, including Mr. and Mrs. Albert L. Arenberg. The Arenbergs purchased a large number of Onchi's abstract works and later gave their collection to the museum. Many of the works in this exhibition are from the Arenberg collection.
Onchi Koshiro: The Abstract Prints is curated by Janice Katz, Roger L.Weston Associate Curator of Japanese Art at the Art Institute.