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Evocative Shadows: Art of the Japanese Mezzotint

This exhibition celebrates the history of Japanese mezzotint prints. Mezzotint is Italian for “half-tone,” a reference to this intaglio technique’s capacity to produce a broad tonal range of deep blacks through bright whites. Also known as manière noire (the “black method”), mezzotint relies on the force of repetitive motion, rather than the corrosive effect of acid, to create an image on the metal plate. When first developed in Europe in the seventeenth century, the tonal richness the technique made possible caused a sensation and was used to create nuanced reproductions of famous paintings. After the invention of photography, however, this purpose was eclipsed, and the technique nearly died out.

Its twentieth-century revival can be credited in large part to two Japanese masters who exploited the medium’s expressive, rather than reproductive, possibilities: HASEGAWA Kiyoshi (1891-1980) and HAMAGUCHI Yôzô (1909-2000). This exhibition includes one recently acquired print by Hamaguchi, plus a selection by the next two generations of Japanese mezzotint artists, including SAITŌ Kaoru (born 1931), SAKAMOTO Koichi (born 1932), SAKAZUME Atsuo (born 1941), HIROSHIMA Seiichi (born 1950), and especially HAMANISHI Katsunori (born 1949), about whom the museum is publishing a monograph. It will also feature examples of other Japanese arts that will be the focus for upcoming UO classes – including paintings, prints, ceramics, lacquer, textiles, armor, and assorted decorative objects. The exhibition is co-curated by History of Art and Architecture Associate Professor Akiko Walley and JSMA chief curator Anne Rose Kitagawa.
Relevant research areas: East Asia, 20th Century, Contemporary, Engraving

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