Chattanooga, TN (May 1, 2015) – The Hunter Museum of American Art will open a new temporary exhibition, Japonisme and America, on Friday, May 8 in connection with the museum’s current exhibition featuring works by Gajin Fujita, an L.A.-based Japanese-American artist, and the Hunter’s upcoming summer exhibition, Monet and American Impressionism (opening June 27), which explores, in part, the influence of Japanese art on the Impressionists.
Japonisme, the craze for Japanese art and culture, began when Japan resumed its trade with Western countries after 200 years of isolation, exporting items such as woodblock prints, screens, fans, textiles, ceramics and furniture into Europe and the United States. Coupled with Japanese collections shown at the World’s Fairs in Philadelphia in 1876 and Chicago in 1893, the passion for Japanese art in Western culture, termed Japonisme by French author Phillipe Burty in 1872, had officially begun in the United States.
Japonisme and America examines the impact of this initial vogue on 19th-century American artists, who were fascinated both by decorative objects they deemed “exotic,” as well as the radically different ways that Japanese artists conceptualized space, pattern and color. This exhibition also explores the legacy of Japonisme for Japanese-American artists in the 20th-century, who contested the stereotypes about Japanese culture found within these objects that appeared in American homes and in American culture at large.
“On the eve of the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, we wanted to tell a story about the historical relationship between Japan and the United States,” said Rachel White, Assistant Curator of Education, who co-curated the exhibition with Miranda Hofelt, Associate Curator. “We chose objects in our collection that could speak no only to the rich inspiration that Japanese art had on American artists, but could also help the viewer to learn more about trade, immigration, communication and conflict between these two parts of the world in the 19th and 20th centuries.”
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