Shikō Munakata: A Way of Seeing December 10, 2021 – March 20, 2022 at Japan Society #SeeingMunakata

Japan Society is pleased to present Shikō Munakata: A Way of Seeing on view December 10, 2021 – March 20, 2022.

This new presentation of nearly 100 path-breaking works by celebrated artist Shikō Munakata (1903-1975) is organized from Japan Society’s rare collection—the largest Munakata collection in the United States. Primarily known for his powerfully expressive woodblock prints, this exhibition reveals the breadth of Munakata’s oeuvre, which spanned from prints to calligraphy, sumi ink paintings, watercolors, lithography, and ceramics.

With his bold, spontaneous, and sketch-like lines, Munakata developed an innovative style that revolutionized the woodblock print.

A highlight of the installation is his complete Tōkaidō Series (1964), a set of 61 newly rediscovered prints that depict scenes the artist witnessed while traveling along the vital coastal route between Tokyo and Kyoto, which Munakata extended to Osaka.

This full set will be on view for the first time since 1965. No matter the medium, Munakata’s artistic explorations were characterized by a spirited curiosity and relentless experimentation.

Munakata incorporated diverse sources and inspiration in his dynamic works, including Japanese folk tales, Buddhism, Western literature and poetry, and nature motifs, represented by works in the exhibition.

“Black and white are absolute. Expressing the most delicate vibration, the most profound tranquility, and unlimited profundity.”

—Shikō Munakata

The exhibition underscores Munakata’s first visit to the United States in 1959 as a Fellow in Japan Society’s Print Artists Program, and includes works he made expressly for Japan Society during his time in New York. Original, experiential exhibition design is by New York- and Barcelona-based MAIO Architects, with graphic design by Eline Mul.

Shikō Munakata: A Way of Seeing is organized by Japan Society and curated by Tiffany Lambert.

About Shikō Munakata

Shikō Munakata (1903-1975), born in the northern Aomori Prefecture as one of fifteen children to a blacksmith, began his career as a self-taught oil painter. In 1924, at the age of twenty-one, Munakata moved to Tokyo to pursue an artistic career where, upon seeing a woodblock print by Sumio Kawakami, he changed course and became active in the woodblock print community. He continued printmaking throughout World War II and was awarded prizes in international exhibitions and biennials held in Lugano (1952), São Paulo (1955), and Venice (1956). Visiting the United States in 1959 at the invitation of Japan Society as part of its Print Artists Program, Munakata spent six months lecturing and exhibiting his work throughout the country. Munakata’s accolades continued, including the Medal of Honor (1963), the Asahi Shimbun Prize (1964), and the Order of Culture (1970), Japan’s highest honor in the arts. Munakata was famously myopic, and in 1960 he lost the use of his left eye completely. Despite this, he continued producing work at a prolific output until his death in 1975.

Shikō Munakata: A Way of Seeing is supported, in part, by the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, the W.L.S. Spencer Foundation, Shigesuke, and Noriko Kashiwagi, and The American Chai Trust. Special thanks to Sondra Castile, and the Family of Beate Sirota Gordon.

Japan Society is located at 333 E 47th St in New York City

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