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By 11:58 PM , ,

I saw a fantastic show of Japanese wood block prints this week at the Legion of Honor. Ukiyo-e, The Floating World, was by far my favorite college elective. At one point I knew a fair amount about this popular art, but it's been a while, so I re-learned some things at this exhibit. Utamaro, Hokusai, Hiroshige, Sharaku...A tapestry for my senior show in high school was crudely Kuniyoshi-like and my jacquard fabric for my senior year in college was very derivative of Yoshitoshi. It might just be in my blood.

They recreated an artist's studio in the first gallery, with a seat for the publisher, artist, carver and printer. Around the corner in the same gallery, there was a film being shown of how a wood block print is made, from start to finish. I was mesmerized  by the high-def, microscopic look at the process of literally carving each hair, strand by strand, into the cherry wood; I pretty much stopped breathing or blinking as to not miss anything. The meticulous, obsessive and anal-retentive monotony that is often inherent in Japanese arts and crafts was brilliantly captured in this educational film. It made me a little melancholy watching these seasoned artisans because they're likely the last of the bunch, with few apprentices lining up outside their studios to carry on the craft.
What I was not prepared for were the French prints that followed in the final two galleries. The show's name, Japanesque, should have tipped me off...They were inspired by the Japanese prints I just devoured. I had spent so much time and focus on the original Japanese prints, that I didn't have any attention span left to even peruse the French galleries. Again, my pacing needs work, even in art appreciation. I got the catalog, so I plan to read up on it over the next few days.

They didn't sell the DVD of the film at the gift shop. That's what I really wanted to see again and again. Nor had they any information about it, at least not the clerk with whom I spoke.

Asako told me about this show before she left for Tokyo; I'm so glad that she did because I would have almost missed it during the chaos of December. 9 days left, if anybody wants to catch it.

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  1. Hokusai, I adore the most, was the giant of Ukiyo-e artist. I especially like the multiple display of the "Fuji beyond the Wave." Lucky you, Kana!