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Scholten Japanese Art exhibits woodblock prints, paintings & drawings by Paul Binnie
Paul Binnie (b. 1967), Waking, watercolor on paper, ca. 1993-94, 10 1/2 by 15 1/8 in., 26.8 by 38.5 cm.

NEW YORK, NY.- Scholten Japanese Art is participating in Contemporary Art Week 2017 with The Body Illustrated: Woodblock Prints, Paintings & Drawings by Paul Binnie, an exhibition inspired by the completion of Paul Binnie’s (b. 1962) beloved series A Hundred Shades of Ink of Edo (Edo Zumi hyaku shoku) with a comprehensive exploration of the artist’s nude and tattoo subjects in a variety of media.

This is Scholten’s third exhibition dedicated to Binnie’s work, and the first in nearly seven years. Following the first two exhibitions, Echoes of Japan: The Woodblock Prints of Paul Binnie in the autumn of 2008 and Paul Binnie: Paintings to Prints and Back Again in the autumn of 2010, which together displayed Binnie’s paintings, prints, and print production materials, including beauty and landscape subjects, the current show features the recently completed A Hundred Shades of Ink of Edo print series complemented by related nude and tattoo imagery.

The woodblock print series A Hundred Shades of Ink of Edo playfully references timeless imagery from classic ukiyo-e and inventively placed them on modern nude subjects. The first image from the series, the 2004 Kuniyoshi’s Cats (Kuniyoshi no neko, 16 7/8 by 11 3/8 in., 43 by 29 cm) takes on Utagawa Kuniyoshi’s (1798-1861) fondness for felines by artfully lifting upwards of eighteen cats from Kuniyoshi’s ca. 1848-1849 composition Cat’s Suggested as the Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido Road. The design is set against a dramatic gradating stylized swirl (baren sujizuri bokashi) background, and features another cat, indecorously cleaning itself at the base of the title cartouche. Subsequent images from the series paid homage to other familiar masters of ukiyo-e, from the kabuki subjects of Toshusai Sharaku (active ca. 1794-1795) and Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1865) to the beauties of Suzuki Harunobu (ca. 1724-1770) and Keisai Eisen (1790-1848).

In Yoshitoshi’s Ghosts (Yoshitoshi no Bakemono, 16 7/8 by 11 1/2 in., 42.8 by 29.1 cm), Binnie designed a tattoo after the master of ghosts and the supernatural, Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892; and the subject of the gallery’s most recent exhibition and publication) capturing both the subtlety and terror that comingled in Yoshitoshi’s imagery. From Yoshitoshi’s landmark series One Hundred Aspects of the Moon (Tsuki hyakushi), Binnie takes the ghost of Yugao, rising from a censer, and the winged spirit who haunts Iga no Tsubone. Not to be outdone, he places the shrieking red demon of Yoshitoshi’s 1889 Sadanobu Threatening a Demon in the Palace at Night (Sadanobu-ko yoru kyuchu ni kai o osoreshimu no zu) on the nude model’s hip, and depicts the face of a small ghoul in the title cartouche.

For the final design of the series released in 2015, Hiroshige’s Edo (Hiroshige no Edo, 16 3/4 by 12 1/8 in., 42.4 by 30.9 cm) produced in 2015, Binnie closed the series with some of the best remembered designs of ukiyo-e, from Utagawa Hiroshige’s (1791-1858) highly influential series 1856-1859, One Hundred Famous Views of Edo (Edo Meisho Hyakkei). The beauty glancing coyly over her shoulder has a tattoo of the eagle of the Plain at Suzaki Fukagawa (Fukagawa, Suzaki Jumantsubo) descending over the iconic bridge in Sudden Shower at Ohashi Bridge (Ohashi Atke no yudachi)—arguably one of the most famous images from all of ukiyo-e. While Binnie was producing the tattoo series, he also released variant designs of the same figures, offering smaller editions of the models without the ukiyo-e inspired tattoos. The female nudes were sometimes included in a concurrent series titled A Collection of Brocade Beauties (Azuma nishiki bijin awase). The nude related to the Hiroshige tattoo print, Alluring Figure (Adesugata, 18 1/4 by 12 3/8 in., 46.5 by 31.4 cm) is set against a pink and lavender gradating (bokashi) ground.

In addition to presenting the complete tattoo series on exhibition for the first time, this exhibition will offer an array of early Binnie paintings, sketches and prints of nude and tattoo (and nudes with tattoos) subjects, including some very early works, some of which have never been exhibited, published, or offered for sale. In the watercolor painting from circa 1993-4, Waking (see image above, 10 5/8 by 15 1/8 in., 27 by 38.5 cm.), a reclining male nude lies horizontally against a deep teal background, bearing a blue koi tattoo down the sides of his chest, while hiding his face with his left arm. The dappled light dances on the subject’s body in much the same way that light would hit the surface of water, enlivening the tattoo of stylized waves and carp swimming upstream.

In his 1994 oil on canvas painting, Candlelight (20 7/8 by 18 3/4 in., 65 by 53 cm), Binnie dramatically depicts a nude male figure in profile, his backside illuminated from left, his glowing skin emerging from the shadows, which Binnie masterfully adapted with a slightly more demure stencil print (kappazuri, 24 3/4 by 18 3/4 in., 63 by 47.6 cm) of the same title from the same year.

In contrast, an oil on canvas painting from only four years later exploring a similar theme, Sunlight, 1998 (detail, 29 3/4 by 24 in., 75.5 by 60.9 cm), a different crouching male model confronts the viewer with a ‘side-eye’ stare and an unflinching full-frontal display.

The exhibition includes at least 30 woodblock prints, 4 stencil prints, and 20 original paintings and drawings.

The gallery exhibition opened on Tuesday, May 2nd, with a special Asia Week New York Open House Gallery Night on Friday, May 5th from 6--8 pm which Paul Binnie will be attending. In addition, the will be a woodblock printing demonstration at ‘Printing by Binnie’ on Saturday, May 6th at 3 pm, as well as an opportunity to chat with the artist at an informal discussion about printmaking at ‘Chatting with Binnie’ on Sunday May 6th at 3 pm (space limited at Saturday and Sunday events, reservations will be required).

After May 10th the exhibition will remain on view by appointment through Saturday, July 15th, when it will conclude with a special Mid-Summer Gallery Night to welcome visitors from the 2017 Empire State Tattoo Expo (July 14-16) located at the nearby Midtown Hilton Hotel.

Scholten Japanese Art, located at 145 West 58th Street, Suite 6D, is open Monday through Friday, and some Saturdays, 11am - 5pm, by appointment. To schedule an appointment please call (212) 585-0474.

For the duration of the first segment of the exhibition, May 2 – 10, the gallery will have general open hours (no appointment needed), 11 am to 6 pm; and thereafter by appointment through July 15th.

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