Monday, February 11, 2013

Deco Japan

The Albuquerque Art Museum brought Deco Japan to town this weekend.  The show was first mounted by the Japan Society in New York about a year ago.  Reviewers since then nearly always make use of the the term "breathtaking" and that certainly seems justified looking at the range and quality of the pieces in the exhibit. All of the works are from the 1930s and '40s and range in size from matchbook covers to mural-sized paintings, but there is also a good selection of small sculptures, commercial art and stylish clothing from the period.  The most representative selection I've found on the web is a slideshow from a review at the site.

Mysteriously absent from the Deco Japan show are references from the period to Architecture, and there is just one small photographic print displayed precariously at the narrow edge of an exhibit panel.  As Alexandra Lange of Design Observer recognized and emphasized in her review of the show, it is a print that effectively summarizes the whole period in Japan.

The photograph, dating from 1935 is by Hiroshi Hamaya, an artist who applied his skills to a wide range of subjects from aerial landscapes to cultural documentary and graphic compositions of incredible power such as Woman Planting Rice produced when he worked with Magnum, and which I think Steichen may have included in the Family of Man show.

Coincidentally, I have been spending time lately with Brassai's Paris by Night.  The parallels one can see with the same period in Japan are really quite amazing.

1 comment:

Mike said...

I returned to view the exhibition again. I expect I'll go back many more times before it ends toward the end of April. Standing in front of the exhibits, one gets a vivid sense of being in a time past. For me, and I suspect for many others, there is also a sense of profound sadness which envelops the gallery. The visitor feels close to the people who created and enjoyed the art displayed, and there is an urge to try to yell out across time to plead that the Japanese and Western leaders recognize their common values and reach some accommodation to prevent the approaching cataclysm.