Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Miwako Nishizawa: Japan Comes To Virginia

Last November, I attended the opening of a Kawase Hasui exhibition at the Virginia Museum of Art in Richmond, Virginia.  The exhibition was based on prints and paintings that had been donated to the VMA by René and Carolyn Balcer, supplemented with a few works lent by others, including myself.  As a companion exhibition to the Hasui show, the Balcers had commissioned Miwako Nishizawa [Glick] (1964- ) to create a woodblock print series on display in another galley called "Twelve Views of Virginia."  I had the pleasure of sitting next to Miwako at dinner that weekend and sat in as an observer for half-hour at day-long workshop she was teaching on woodblock printing.  By the end of the weekend, I decided to make the plunge and buy the complete series of prints from the VMA's gift shop.  (This was a surprising decision on my part, as she is not only the third artist in my collection born after WWII, but the third artist born after WWI.) 

Miwako (we are on a first name basis after she came to the Washington, D.C. area to view my collection this past winter and found herself snowbound for the weekend) was born in Kyoto, Japan and graduated from the Kyoto University of Education majoring in Art Education.  She tells me that she made her first print in her first grade elementary school class.  She came to the United States in August 1989 to get her MFA in Studio Art from New York University, where she majored in Printmaking and studied woodblock printing under the late William Paden.  Her first adult woodblock print was called "The Bottom Line," from the series "Eight Views of NYC" that was part of her graduate work and exhibited at the 80 Washington Square Gallery in 1992.  The prints in this series exhibit a hip, youthful vibe with somewhat of a Clifton Karhu sensibility.

The Bottom Line (1990), from the series "Eight Views of N.Y.C."
(Courtesy of Miwako Nishizawa)

Miwako was in New York City at the time of the 9/11 bombing, and subsequently produced a series of mixed media prints out of the rubble of the World Trade Center.  Miwako now resides in Berkeley, California, with her American husband and children.  Her first California-based woodblock print series was called "Sixteen Views of Mt. Tam," inspired in concept though not in composition on Japanese prints series devoted to views of Mount Fuji by the likes of Hokusai and Hiroshige.  It consists of four views of Mount Tamalpais from Berkeley, Oakland, Fairfax, and San Anselmo in different seasons, weather conditions, and times of day.  Although I own a copy of this series, for convenience I have reproduced a sample image from Miwako's website which is of a better quality than I could provide.  Digital images, however, do not really do justice to the prints in the Mt. Tam series.

Full Moon, Fairfax (2014)
from the series Sixteen Views of Mt. Tam
(Courtesy of http://www.miwakonishizawa.com/)

I was probably attracted to Miwako's "Twelve Views of Virginia" prints because they depicted local scenes with Japanese sensibility.  (One seldom encounters Maryland or Virginia landscapes in either Japanese or American woodblock prints.  The closest that we tend to get is something like Hasui's view of the Washington Monument -- even though Hasui never traveled to the United States.)  Certain prints in the series contain clear allusions to certain specific prints in Hiroshige's One Hundred Famous Views of Edo.  Certain others may employ a Hiroshige-like perspective but are otherwise completely original.  The bird in her Jamestown print, for example, was obviously a riff on the eagle in Hiroshige's Fukagawa Susaki Jûmantsubo print.  (The prints in the "Twelve Views of Virginia" series are too large for me to scan so, again, I have borrowed images from Miwako's website for convenience.)

                Jamestown (2014)

Susaki and the Jumantsubo Plain near Fukagawa (Fukagawa Susaki Jûmantsubo) (1857), No. 107 from One Hundred Famous Views of Edo (Meisho Yedo Hyakkei) by Ando Hiroshige
(Courtesy of JapanesePrints-London.com)

Similarly, the view of Monticello through the branches of a cherry tree immediately summons to mind Hiroshige's The Plum Garden at Kameido print, which even Van Gogh copied.

               Monticello (2014)

The Plum Garden at Kameido (Kameido Umeyashiki) (1857), No. 30 from One Hundred Famous Views of Edo (Meisho Yedo Hyakkei) by Ando Hiroshige
(Courtesy of JapanesePrints-London.com)

I don't believe that there is any Hiroshige corollary to Miwako's College of William and Mary print.  But if one is trying after-the-fact to force what I'm sure is an unintended parallel, there are arguably some compositional similarities between it and Hiroshige's Mount Atago print.  Straining further, the college building turret brings to mind the Kudanzaka Lighthouse (1878) from the series "Famous Places of Tokyo (Tôkyô meisho)" by Hiroshige III.

College of William and Mary (2014)

Mount Atago, Shiba (Shiba Atagoyama) (1857), No. 21 from the series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo (Meisho Edo hyakkei) by Ando Hiroshige

While the last one was an admitted stretch, I'm back on firmer ground with Miwako's Manassas Battle Field.  The cannon wheel in this print unmistakably conjures up the cart wheel in Ushimachi, Takanawa. That said, while the perspective may be an artistic conceit, the wheel imagery is not arbitrarily introduced into the scene, but is a leftover reminder of the carnage that took place at that Civil War spot.

Manassas Battle Field (2014)

Ushimachi, Takanawa (1857),
No. 81 from One Hundred Famous Views of Edo
(Meisho Yedo Hyakkei) by Ando Hiroshige
(Courtesy of The Art of Japan)

The last print in the series with an apparent relation to Hiroshige's One Hundred Famous Views of Edo series is Floyd Country Store, famous for featuring traditional Appalachian music and dancing.  There, the shadowy, faceless figures on the sidewalk mimic those in a number of Hiroshige's prints, especially Night View of the Saruwaka District.

                Floyd Country Store (2014)


Night View of the Saruwaka District (Saruwaka-machi yoru no kei) (1856),
No. 90 from One Hundred Famous Views
of Edo (Meisho Yedo Hyakkei)
by Ando Hiroshige
(Courtesy of Castle Fine Arts)

While bridges abound in Hiroshige's work, including his famous half-moon Kameido bridge print, I'm not aware of any print design that is suitably analogous to Miwako's Natural Bridge.  It's difficult to even say that she has exaggerated the perspective.  However, while the resemblance is minor, the print that comes to my mind is Hiroshi Yoshida's print of a Chinese bridge in Soshu.
     Natural Bridge (2014)

Soshu (1940) by Hiroshi Yoshida
(Courtesy of Castle Fine Arts)

Miwako's final vertical print in the series is Colonial Williamsburg.  Ridiculously oversized horses abound in Hiroshige's prints, such as in The New Station of Naito at Yotsuya or the Kogan Plain in Shimosa Province.  But perhaps a more apt comparison would be something less overblown and more akin to Fuchû, Hiroshige's print of one of the stations along Japan's famed Tôkaidô Road.

                Colonial Williamsburg (2014)

Fuchû, Station No.  20 (1852) from the series Fifty-three Stations of the Tôkaidô Road (Tôkaidô Gojûsan tsugi) by Ando Hiroshige (Jimbutsu edition)

The arguably most "modern" print in the series is Miwako's treatment of Virginia's Blue Ridge mountains.  Hiroshige's mountains tend to be highly stylized, as in the Odawara station on the Tôkaidô road.  Hiroshige Yoshida's mountain prints are more naturalistic.  The Priest, Blue Ridge, however, is more in line with landscape prints by contemporary printmakers working on the West Coast and in the Southwest.

The Priest, Blue Ridge (2014)

Odawara: Fording the Sakawa River (Odawara, Sakawagawa kachiwatashi),
 Station No. 10 (c. 1841) from The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tôkaidô Road
 (Tôkaidô Gojûsan tsugi) (Gyosho edition) by Ando Hiroshige

Manotake and Natoridake (1926) from  the series
Twelve Scenes in the Japanese Alps by Hiroshi Yoshida
Courtesy of The Art of Japan)

Miwako's final horizontal print in the series is of the Cape Henry Lighthouses. Lighthouses in Hiroshige's day looked very different from Western lighthouses, making a comparison of this print to ukiyo-e prints rather difficult, except to the extent that one chooses to focus on the lines of rain or crashing of the wave on the shore.   (Miwako's treatment of the crashing wave is not unlike that found in Jessie Green's The Wave or B.J.O. Nordfeld's The Wave, Moonrise.)  The print lacks the naturalism of, say, Sydney Lee's The Lighthouse, Mevagissey (which, if anything, is closer in spirit to Natural Bridge),  but at the same time it is also not nearly as abstract as Sekino's Inubo Cape - Lighthouse and Rough Ocean.  With relative economy, the print suggests the circular sweep of the lighthouse lamp, the chill of the storm, and the turbulence of the ocean at Virginia Beach.
Cape Henry Lighthouses (2014)

The Lighthouse, Mevagissey (c. 1905) by Sydney Lee

Inubo Cape - Lighthouse and Rough Ocean (1966) by Junichiro Sekino
(Courtesy of Artelino.com)

In her final three prints, Miwako departs radically from the conventional rectangular shape of prints.  Two are circular designs, which she had previously used for all prints in the Sixteen Views of Mt. Tam series, the first of which is a scene of the James River from Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond.  The white eddies bring to mind The Whirlpools of Naruto in Awa Province.  (To fully appreciate Hiroshige's depiction of the whirlpools, one will need to open the print image up in another window.)

Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond (2014)

The Whirlpools of Naruto in Awa Province (Awa Naruto no fukei) (1857), 
from the series Snow, Moon and Flowers (Settsu-gekka) by Ando Hiroshige
(Courtesy of JapanesePrints-London.com)

The second circular print is of the University of Virginia (2014).  Part Hasui, part Karhu, this print makes good use of the series cartouche to extend the vertical lines of the building's columns.  One would think that Federalist architecture would seem rather jarring and out of place in a "Japanese" print, but I find the resulting effect very soothing.
University of Virginia (2014)

Evening Snow at Sanjukken Canal
(Sanjugenbori no bosetsu) (1920), from the series Twelve Months of Tokyo (Tokyo junikagetsu) by Kawase Hasui
(Courtesy of The Art of Japan)
Black Dragon  (2004) by Clifton Karhu
(Courtesy of the Verne Gallery)

I've saved my favorite print in the series for last, Skyline Drive, Virginia, done in a fan shape.  It provides both a dramatic and effective presentation for this panoramic view of this scenic byway.  Hiroshige, like many artists, occasionally designed fan prints.  While I doubt that Miwako drew any inspiration from any particular fan print designer, the print by Hiroshige below makes for an interesting contrast.

Skyline Drive, Virginia (2014) by Miwako Nishizawa

Clearing Weather at Susaki (Susaki seiran) (c. 1835), 
from the series Eight Views of the Eastern Capital (Tôto hakkei)
by Ando Hiroshige

I should stress that the analysis and opinions I've expressed here are entirely my own and were formed without consulting with Miwako.  Consequently, they may not necessarily reflect her own views or accurately reflect her actual influences or her goals in designing these prints.

The Virginia Museum of Art was given a year of exclusivity of sell "Twelve Views of Virginia."  That exclusivity expired in November 2015; prints from this series (and others) may now be obtained directly from Miwako Nishizawa or through dealers who handle her work, such as the Verne Collection.  Ms. Nishizawa can be contacted through her website at https://www.miwakonishizawa.art.  She is currently working on a poster commission of "Three Bay Area" views for Bay Area Rapid Transit, and a series of prints representing stations along California State Route 1.

Miwako Nishizawa at work printing Cape Henry Lighthouses

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Sunday, October 04, 2015

The Austrian Masanobu: Holy Grail #2

Austrian artist Robert Philippi (1877-1959) attended the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts under Griepenkerl and Trenkwald and later the Vienna School of Applied Arts under Myrbach and Roller.  He was associated first with Austrian Secessionism and later turned to German Expressionism.  Until the mid-1920s, Philippi mainly used drawing, woodcuts, and etchings as his primary medium of expression, before increasingly concentrating on painting.  He also was a teacher of printmaking techniques, counting Egon Schiele upon his more famous pupils.

"Japanisches Theater" (1910) by Robert Philippi
Etching (first state)
Personal Collection

As far as I know Philippi never journeyed to Japan, although I would interested in learning if anyone is aware that he did.  Nonetheless, in 1910 he produced the above etching which, from the title, presumably depicts Japanese actors in a play. It must be relatively rare because I have yet to find an Austrian or German print dealer who has ever seen a copy.  Did Philippi attend a performance given by a Japanese kabuki troupe that visited Vienna?  Is the scene entirely imagined?  (My best guess is the latter.)

Whether real or imagined, one thing is clear.  Philippi must have seen and studied Japanese prints, in particular, prints by one of the Primitives such as Torii Kiyonobu I (c. 1664-1729), or Okumura Masanobu (1686–1764).   The woman's hairstyle and pose is typical of Japanese prints produced in the early 1700s (or even somewhat earlier).    

The Actor Ichimura Takenojo Reclining on a Balcony (c. 1715)
by Okumura Masanobu
(monochrome woodblock print)

Courtesans and Client (c. early 1700s)
 attributed to Torii Kiyonobu I
(monochrome woodblock print)

Observant readers will notice the stylized monogram "RPH" in the lower right of corner Philippi's "Japanisches Theater" etching.  I am not sufficiently acquainted with Philippi's output to know if it is unique to this print or if it appears on Philippi's other work from this time period.  His prints and drawings from his subsequent Expressionistic period of which I am familiar tend to use "R" above "PH" in plain block letters.  However, his particular monogram on this etching is highly reminiscent of (and likely influenced by) the stylized monograms adopted by members of the Viennese Succession Movement such as Gustav Klimt, Koloman Moser, Josef Hoffmann, Alfred Roller, Felician Freiherr v. Myrbach, and Emil Orlik.

Selection of monograms found in Max Klinger-Beethoven, 
XIV. Ausstellung-katalog der Weiner Secession (1902)
Personal Collection

This Klinger-Beethoven catalog is well worth seeking out because it also has sixteen orange and black woodblock prints by Orlik, Moser, Myrbach, Karl Moll, Ferdinand Andri, Rudolf Jettmar, Friedrich König, Max Kurzweil, Maximilian Lenz, Wilhelm List, Elena Luksch-Makovsky, and Ernst Stöhr, an example of which is shown below.

Figure Under Willow Tree (1902) by Emil Orlik, found in
Max Klinger-Beethoven, XIV. Ausstellung-katalog der Weiner Secession (1902)
Personal Collection
(woodblock print) 

Thanks to the efforts of the late print dealer and friend Allan Wolman, I was able to obtain this counterproof for Orlik's print, the only counterproof I have encountered for any of Orlik's woodblock prints.  (Some black and white keyblock impressions of Orlik's woodblock prints exist, but that's a horse of a different color.)  In both prints, you can see Orlik's own Secessionist monogram in one of the upper corners.

Counterproof for Figure Under Willow Tree (1902) by Emil Orlik
Personal Collection

Did Philippi produce other Japanese-themed etchings, or was his "Japanisches Theater" etching a one-off?  I honestly don't know.  There's not a lot of information about Philippi on the Internet and, if there is a catalog raisonné for his prints, I have not as yet stumbled upon a copy.  But if a reader is aware of other "Japanese" works by Philippi, please let me know.

04/04/21 Note:  Roughly five and a half years after writing this post, I finally found a copy of this etching for purchase.  Consequently, it is no longer one of my "holy grail" prints.

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