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Japanese prints impressive.

Byline: Randi Bjornstad The Register-Guard

She may be a specialist in 12th century Japanese hand scrolls, but Anne Rose Kitagawa couldn't be more excited about "Expanding Frontiers: The Jack and Susy Wadsworth Collection of Postwar Japanese Prints," an exhibit that opens Oct. 3 at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art.

If mental images of stylized geishas or mountains or apple blossoms or Kabuki actors spring to mind, put them away. As Kitagawa puts it, "If we didn't have 'Japan' in the title of this show, it would be hard to tell that these are Japanese prints."

Kitagawa might add - actually, she does - that if it weren't for the Wadsworths, none of this art would be going on display at all.

"Jack and Susy Wadsworth gave the museum 157 modern and contemporary Japanese prints three years ago," Kitagawa said. "Until now, our ability to teach this subject has been limited by the materials we had available.

"This gift has been absolutely transformative."

The Wadsworth collection prints represent the second generation of "creative printmaking" in Japan, said Kitagawa, who is co-curating the exhibit at the Schnitzer with the Akiko Walley.

"Creative printmaking started in Japan as early as 1904," she said. "Traditional printmaking was very collaborative - the artist did just the design and then other craftspeople did their work, such as the cutting of woodblocks and the actual printing - but later artists wanted to carry through the whole creative process."

The postwar printmakers also became "intoxicatingly interested in Western art" at the same time that people from Western culture became interested in Asian art.

"After World War II, there were many people from the United States and Europe who began to collect Japanese artwork and some, such as the author James Michener, who began to write about it and promote it in this country," Kitagawa said.

Not all 157 Wadsworth prints will be on display, but 114 will be. The selection should give art lovers a healthy dose of the four main categories of Japanese printmaking: woodblock, intaglio, lithograph and screen print.

More than wallpaper

In addition to the works of art themselves, the "Expanding Frontiers" show will have an educational component, Kitagawa said, "explaining each technique and how each is done so people can learn the differences and appreciate each one."

The daughter of a Japanese father - he was attending divinity school in the United States and incarcerated in an internment camp in Idaho during World War II - and an American mother, Kitagawa said she "grew up in a house full of these things."

"When I got older, I realized, 'Oh, my gosh, all this isn't wallpaper; it's art,' " she said.

The prints on display range from starkly beautiful, more traditionally designed black-and-white creations of Saito Kiyoshi - the family name is given first in traditional Japanese households - to the creations of a 102-year-old woman artist, Shinoda Toko, who specializes in monoprint lithographs with calligraphy superimposed on top.

The brilliantly saturated, geometric embossed prints of Amano Kunihiro contrast with the sensual, enigmatic themes of Ikeda Masuo, who worked with both intaglio and lithograph.

One artist in the show merits an annex of his own, and that's Gaston Petit, a Dominican friar from Canada who learned printmaking there before being sent to Japan with his Roman Catholic order in 1966.

Petit became well known not only for his printmaking but also his work in painting, stained glass, silk-screen, wood block, sculpture, mural painting and church design.

"In some cases, he printed for the Japanese artists, and in others he taught them so they printed in his studio," Kitagawa said. "He also collected their art and delved deeply into their techniques.

"As a French Canadian in Tokyo, he has been instrumental in the lineage of this art."

Connection to collection

It was serendipity that brought the Wadsworths into contact with the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, Kitagawa said.

"Their daughter lives in Eugene, where her husband is a professor of English here at the UO," she said. "And when the Wadsworths came here to visit them, they came to JSMA and were really impressed by it.

"I think part of the appeal was the strong Asian thrust of our permanent collection, but I also think there was just something that resonated with them about the whole museum."

Needless to say, the degree of their generosity has been overwhelming, Kitagawa said.

"Receiving this collection was just like Christmas - one piece would be great, but 157? It's unbelievable, and there is great excitement in the diversity of work and how it can benefit our other Japanese galleries as well.

"It's taken three years to mat and frame the works and to plan and prepare the exhibit," Kitagawa said, and to her the result "is breathtaking,"

"What it will mean to our students and to the public to be able to share in this exhibit is unbelievably exciting." EXHIBIT PREVIEW Expanding Frontiers: The Jack and Susy Wadsworth Collection of Postwar Japanese Prints When: Exhibit runs from Oct. 3 to Jan. 3; opening reception from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Oct. 2 Where: Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, 1430 Johnson Lane

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Title Annotation:Visual Arts
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Sep 24, 2015
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