Monday, 11 January 2010

The Museum of Modern Art Tokyo

Tokyo Modern Art Museum at Takebashi in Central Tokyo, has been on my to do list for a long time; I finally got there yesterday.  It was definitely worth the visit.  The Museum is essentially a record of Japanese art through the 20th century.   The blending and synthesising of western and Japanese aspects, often western painting styles with Japanese subjects and perspective, is an interesting entry point into modern Japanese history.   Assuming that there would be  vast selection of postcards in the museum shop, unfortnately I didn't make notes of artists names. 
I have included some below that I liked.   I have taken the following pictures from other websites.

Ryoka Kawakami
Railroad (1912)

As in the west, themes related to industrialisation preoccupied artists in Japan.

Hachiro Nakagawa
Village and Apricot Blossoms (1914)
Western influenced drawing techniques, Japanese subject matter.

Hiromitsu Nakazawa
Midday (1910)
This is one of my favourite paintings in the museum - so peaceful.  Western impressionist techniques, clearly showing Japanese way of life and nature.

Shunsho Hishida
Landscape of the Four Seasons 1910

Despite the introduction of Western ideas and techniques, traditional artistic styles, which were heavily reliant on Chinese influence, remained and periodically had a renaissance.  This is one of a series of panels, the rest can be seen if you click on the link below.

Noboru Kitawaki
Quo Vadis (1949)
Kitawaki was conscripted to the Japanese Imperial Army as an artist.  This picture was painted, or at least exhibited for the first time after the war.  It's a painfully lonely portrait of a man who doesn't know where his country is going, but doesn't see much option for an alternative route.

The Museum of Modern Art has a substatial collection of Japanese war time art.  The American General Headquarters (occupying troops) requisitioned the war time art that they could. Much of this has subsequently been returned to Japan, principally to the MoMA.   It would still carry strong political overtones here.  It is a pity that there were not more works of war artists on display.

Wasaku Kobayashi
Sea (1959)

Kobayashi has a series of vivid landscapte oil paintings exhibited in the MoMAT.  There seems to be almost nothing on him in English search engines on the internet, though he is in one place described as a Japanese Fauve, which is probably fitting - they Japanese Fauves started a decade or so after the emergence of Fauvism (Matisse among others) in France.    This painting, while very similar to some in the MoMAT, is actually exhibited in the Kure Municipal Museum, near Hiroshima.  (The picture Small Bay from the MoMAT site similar but  is too small to put here). 

Michiko Kon is a contemporary Japanese photographer whom I hadn't heard of.  I am surprised.  Her work is ... unique.  She is a photographer, but her work is reminiscent of Salvador Dali.  She uses similar imagery, clocks, hats - every day items; however she creates her images using fish - fish eyes, fins, whole fish, and sea creatures - shell fish, octopus.   It is ghastly in its ghoulishness, but at the same time fascinatingly constructed and begs deeper inspection.  I am not sure if it is from the mind of a genius or from someone profoundly disturbed. Again I could find  little information about Kon on the internet, either in English or Japanese.

I am not sure of the titles of either of these pieces.

Perhaps it's my preoccupation with History, but almost always I walk out of an art gallery with appreciation for the art I have seen, but having learned little in terms of why things were painted or how they have influenced.  The MoMAT, despite an impressive collection, didn't really help me understand the dynamics of artistic movements in through the 20th century.  Quite possibly many artists, seeing themselves as creators rather than people reacting against an era, would prefer it that way.  Perhaps the text is more important than the subtext, though I wish I had a deeper understanding.

MoMAT's website


Greg said...

intersting photos..thanks
Born in Kamakura of the Kanagawa Prefecture in Japan in 1955, Kon graduated from the Sokei Art School in 1978, where she studied woodblock printing, collage, and assemblage. She later attended the Tokyo Photographic College.
Kon's work creates a delicious tension between the animate and the
inanimate. Diverse biological matter such as fish, plants, and insects are
unexpectedly combined with clothing, shoes, furniture, and even body parts.
Elegant meditations on the nature of time, Kon's photographs explore the
transitory nature of existence

Cecilia said...

Thanks very much for the links :) I hadn't seen them. I have just read through them properly now. Very interesting :)