Shikō Munakata,

Lightness and Weight: Japanese Art from the Collection

Third-Floor Gallery
Time Period
On View August 12 – November 26, 2023

This exhibition foregrounds work by Japanese artists in the Bechtler Museum’s permanent collection, including Shikō Munakata (1903–1975), Kumi Sugaï (1919–1996), and Tetsuya Yamada (born 1968), all of whom are recognized for their innovative approaches to time-honored Japanese artmaking materials and forms. Employing bold and emotive lines, Munakata is best known for his woodblock prints that merged traditional Japanese art with a visual vocabulary influenced in part by European Post-Impressionism and German Expressionism. Kumi Sugaï likewise looked to both East Asian and Western sources. Galvanized by an interest in avant-garde painting, in 1952 Sugaï moved to Paris, where he created paintings and prints that combine the aesthetics of calligraphy with the gestural abstraction of Art Informel, demonstrating the cross-cultural dialogue taking place at the time. Contemporary artist Tetsuya Yamada emigrated to the United States in 1994, and established a practice that explores tensions between the organic and industrially-made, and between lightness and weight. Working with materials including ceramic, wood, and paper, Yamada’s sculptures and installations draw inspiration from Japanese pottery and architecture; modern art by Constantin Brancusi, Marcel Duchamp, and Isamu Noguchi; and the relationship between art and everyday life. Munakata’s, Sugaï’s, and Yamada’s distinct practices highlight the multifaceted history of Japanese artmaking, and contribute to international narratives of modern and contemporary art.