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exhibitions
 ARTIFACTS

Since the late 19th century, Japanese art has been schizophrenically split into yoga (Western-style) and nihonga (Japanese-style). The latter arose as a self-conscious response to the inroads of the former. Nevertheless, when nihonga took up the challenge of Western art, it was unable to avoid borrowing some of its ideas, most notably the romantically inflated concept of the “divine” artist. But instead of Michelangelo or van Gogh, nihonga found its role models in the elite artist/craftsmen of the Rinpa school. The Yamatane Museum of Art’s exhibition What Did Nihonga Learn from Rinpa? uses 50 mainly large works to look at echoes of the school in the works of 20th-century nihonga artists. Particularly worth seeing is Kaii Higashiyama’s vast seascape Rising Tide and Gyoshu Hayami’s Falling Camellias.

Through Dec 25. See exhibition listings (Ginza/ Kyobashi/ Tokyo) for details. CBL

Giveaway!
Metropolis is offering readers ten free tickets to “What Did Nihonga Learn from Rinpa?” For your chance to see this excellent exhibition, email the following information by Wednesday, December 17, to editor@metropolis.co.jp:

1. Name; 2. Address; 3. Age; 4. Home country; 5. Last exhibition you visited

Include the text “Nihonga” in the subject line. Winners will be selected at random.


 PAST ISSUES

775: Twelve Travels
773: Fuchu Biennial
769: Leonard Foujita
767: Andrew Wyeth
765: Tokyo in the 1930s
763: Treasures by Rinpa Masters
761: Yokohama Triennale 2008
759: Vermeer & The Delft Style
757: John Everett Millais
755: Avant Garde China
753: The Railway Museum
751: Parallel Worlds
749: George Raab: Canadian Wilderness Etchings
743: Daido Moriyama
741: Bauhaus Experience, Dessau
739: The Perry & Harris Exhibition
737: The House
735: XXIst Century Man
733: Kaii Higashiyama
731: Three Weeks of Art Celebration
729: Fashion + Art
727: New Horizons: The Collection of the Ishibashi Foundation
725: Yokoyama and Toulouse-Lautrec
723: Goth: Reality of the Departed World
721: Genesis Art Lounge
717: Tatsuya Matsui: Flower Robotics
715: Space for Your Future: Recombining the DNA of Art and Design
713: MoMA Design Store + Gallery White Room Tokyo
711: Roppongi Crossing 2007: Future Beats in Japanese Contemporary Art
709: Daikanyama Installation 2007
707: Nippon to Asobo
705: Marina Kappos at Tokyo Wonder Site
703: African-American Quilts: Women Piecing Memories and Dreams
701: Kids Earth Fund
699: The Mural Art of Kotohira-gu Shrine: Okyo, Jakuchu and Gantai
697: “Ayakashi” and “Odilon Redon”
695: Architects Around Town
693: Chocolate
691: My Civilization: Grayson Perry
689: Henry Darger: A Story of Girls At War—of Paradise Dreamed
687: Taisho Chic: Japanese Modernity, Nostalgia and Deco
685: Marlene Dumas: Broken White
683: The Mind of Leonardo: The Universal Genius at Work
681: Suntory Museum of Art and 21_21 Design Sight
679: Art Fair Tokyo 2007
677: Gregory Colbert: Ashes and Snow
675: The Door into Summer: The Age of Micropop
673: World of Kojima Usui Collection
671: Keeping TABs
669: The National Art Center, Tokyo
667: New Year’s Preview
665: Jason Teraoka: Neighbors
663: The 3rd Fuchu Biennale: On Beauty and Value
661: Bill Viola: Hatsu-Yume (First Dream)
659: Shinro Ohtake Zen-Kei
657: Prism: Contemporary Australian Art
655: The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium Exhibition
653: Luisa Lambri
651: Modern Paradise
649: The Legend of Ultraman
647: Nihonga Painting: Six Provocative Artists
645: Echigo-Tsumari Triennial
643: Art × Communication = Open!
641: YOROYORON: Tabaimo
639: Africa Remix
637: Mashcomix
635: Move On Asia and Hitoshi Nishiyama’s White Out
633: A Passion for Plants
631: Chikaku: Time and Memory in Japan
629: A Sense of You, Created by Me
627: Beautiful Cities in Dreams
626: 77 Million
625: No Border
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621: Tokyo-Berlin/Berlin-Tokyo
619: Conversation With Art, On Art
617: Olafur Eliasson: Your light shadow
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611: Gerhard Richter: New Works
609: Hokusai
607: Stephan Balkenhol: Skulpturen und Reliefs
605: International Triennale of Contemporary Art 2005
603: CWAJ 50 Years of Print Show
601: Hiroshi Sugimoto: End of Time
599: Shinji Ohmaki: Echoes-Infinity
597: Miwa Yanagi
596: Cubism in Asia: Unbounded Dialogues
595: Canada Tsuga: The Feeling of Wood
594: Laurie Anderson: The Record of the Time
593: Today's artists X: Nishimura Morio/Matsumoto Yoko
592: Masaaki Yamada
591: Follow me!
590: Daido Moriyama: Buenos Aires
589: Mutsuro Sasaki: Flux Structure
588: Shinro Ohtake
587: Masterpieces of the Louvre Museum
586: Tabaimo: Yubibira
585: Yasumasa Morimura: Los Nuevos Caprichos
584: Julian Opie: Films and Paintings
583: Masterpieces of the museum island
582: The Elegance of Silence
581: Tapies
580: The world is a stage: Stories behind pictures
579: Shigejiro Sano At Play in the Esprit of Paris
578: The Body: Hitoshi Abe
577: Tenshin Okakura: The Awakening of Japan
576: Contemporary Spanish Photography: Ten Views
575:Taro Okamoto Memorial Award
574: Takeshi Tamai: Till Moss Grows On
573: Laura Owens
572: Alphonse Mucha: Treasures Of The Mucha Foundation
571: “Welcome, Welcome” Art-Beijing-Contemporary
570: The hidden side of Japanese art
569: Art Scope 2004: Cityscape Into Art—Michiko Shoji + Johannes Wohnseifer
568: Life Actually
567: Traces: Body and Idea in Contemporary Art
566: Mirrorical Returns: Marcel Duchamp and the 20th Century Art
565: Archilab: New Experiments In Architecture, Art and the City, 1950-2005
564: The Second Annual Fuchu Biennale
563: Have We Met?
561-2: Fluxus: Art Into Life
560: Christopher Wool
559: Pop Art and co.
558: Art & Money
557: Art of the Japanese Postcard
556: Yayoi Kusama: Eternity-Modernity
555: Ihei Kimura: The Man with the Camera
554: Wolfgang Tillmans: Freischwimmer
553: Emerging Generation
552: Larry Clark: Punk Picasso
551: Cool & Light: New Spirit in Craft Making
550: Angelo Mangiarotti: Un Percorso
549: Endo Akiko: Poetry of an Everlasting Life
548: Paris and Klein
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546: Colors: Viktor & Rolf & KCI
545: Micro Presence & Macro Presence
544: Non-sect Radical: Contemporary Photography III
543: Pastoral and Flowers in Modern French Painting
542: Collapsing Histories: time, space and memory
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538: I Dreamt of Flying: Noguchi Rika
537: Man Ray Exhibition: The Gift of His Vision
536: Why Not Live For Art?
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534: n_ext: New Generation of Media Artists
533: Empty Garden II
532: Street Art in Africa: A Color Commotion
531: Modern Crafts and Design from the Museum Collection: Art Deco
530: And or Versus? : Adventures in Images
529: Modern Means
528: Remaking Modernism in Japan 1900-2000
527: Treasures of a Sacred Mountain: Kukai and Mount Koya
526: Jan Jansen: Master of Shoe Design
525: Yasuo Kuniyoshi: Between Two Worlds
524: Beyond The Border: Seung H-Sang and Yung Ho Chnag
523: Testimony of Life: Ancient Roman Portraits from the Vatican Museums
522: I Love Art
521: "My" Siberia and "My" Earth: The 30 Year Memorial Retrospective Exhibition of Yasuo Kazuki
520: Time of My Life: Art with a Youthful Spirit
519: Joy of Life: Two Photographers from Africa-JD 'Okhai Ojeikere and Malick Sidibé
518: Roppongi Crossing: New Visions in Japanese Art 2004+Kusamatrix
517: Exposition Musee Marmottan Monet
516: Treasures of a Great Zen Temple: Nanzenji
515: Johannes Itten: Ways to Art
514: Meiji Kaigakan (Memorial Picture Gallery)
513: Kaii Higashiyama: One Man's Path
512: Future Cinema: The Cinematic Imaginary after Film
511: Yasujiro Ozu: Japanese Film Master
509/10: End-of-the-year review and 2004 preview
508: Surface tension
507: Jean Nouvel
506: Makoto Aida: My Ken Ten
505: Gaudi: Exploring Form
504: Ino Tadataka and Old Maps of Japan/Fusuma Paintings of Jukoin
503: Naoshima Contemporary Art Museum
502: Happiness: A Survival Guide for Art and Life
501: Today's Man
500: Taro Shinoda: Helicopter 1

Issues 499-
Issues 449-
Issues 399-

By John McGee

Kaii Higashiyama: One Man's Path

Toshodaiji Miei-do Murals: Mountain Clouds (detail), 1975, color on paper on sliding doors, 177.5x376.4cm

Nihonga landscape painter Kaii Higashiyama (1908-99) had a good career. He was famous: He was commissioned several times by the Imperial Household Agency. He was prolific: He donated over 700 works to the Shinano Art Museum in Nagano. And he was successful: He permanently endowed the UNESCO Prize for the Promotion of the Arts.

This Higashiyama retrospective, the first since the artist's death, now gives us an opportunity to reassess his production on its own terms. The show features work spanning the artist's life, from the careful, delicate lines of a nandina shrub (1927) made during his student days at the Tokyo National University of Art and Music to his masterful murals and fusuma (sliding doors) paintings at Toshodaiji (1971-80) to his last image, of the evening star over a lake (1999). As not all of the 90 works can hang at once, some will be rotated.

Higashiyama traveled extensively in Japan, Europe and China, making sketches of the landscapes for future paintings. And he also experimented somewhat before settling into his style, e.g. abstracting natural forms like snowy mounds along a river (Mountain Stream, 1953) or blobs of orange, yellow and red on an autumn mountainside (Valley, 1952).

But much of the time Higashiyama seemed more interested in creating atmosphere than representing details or places. This led to many facile paintings of little depth. At his worst, Higashiyama illustrated generic fantasylands for dental office décor: a round white moon and repetitive, blocky blue-green trees reflecting in water, a mystical white horse in the woods.

At his best, Higashiyama captured specific moods of distinct landscapes, as in a European castle seen through a frame of wintry trees hung heavy with snow or gnarled pines pinned to the sides of stone towers in the mists of Huangshan, China.

In a pair of paintings from 1949, Higashiyama really nailed the color and shape of Japan's dominant geographic features. Clouds drift through forested green mountains in Clouded Mountain, and a shaft of sunlight struggles through a grey sky hanging low over a turquoise sea in Clouded Sea.

Afterglow, 1947, color on paper, 151.5x212cm

This water and mountain motif is repeated on a monumental scale in his masterpiece, the murals and fusuma from the Miei-do of Toshodaiji temple in Nara. The 68 paintings (58 are shown here) portray the landscapes associated with temple founder Ganjin, a Chinese Buddhist monk who traveled to Japan in the eighth century.

In the temple, ink paintings of Ganjin's familiar territory-willow trees blowing in a breeze off Lesser West Lake in the monk's hometown of Yangzhou, steep hillocks poking above the Li River in Guilin, and the rocky fingers of Huangshan-surround a statue of the monk. Here the paintings have been installed between wooden beams and tatami floors that mimic their home.

Most spectacular are the Japanese landscapes in shimmery blue and green mineral pigments. Mists rise up great, forested mountainsides. Waves splash over rocky outcroppings as they undulate slowly across an L-shaped wall of 16 fusuma (nearly seven meters).

Usually these paintings are on public view only three days a year. But the 1,200-year-old Toshodaiji is currently under renovation, so they're here. For Nihonga lovers, this rare opportunity, combined with several nice pieces (like a curious collage of the four seasons spread across a pair of six-panel folding screens), may be enough to outweigh the general mediocrity.

Yokohama Museum of Art. Until Feb 24. Sakuragicho stn (Tokyu Toyoko line, JR Keihin Tohoku line). Minato Mirai 3-4-1, Nishi-ku, Yokohama. Fri-Wed 10am-6pm. Tel: 045-221-0300. Adm: Adults ¥1,300, students ¥800, children ¥400.
www.art-museum.city.yokohama.jp

Photo credit: Toshodaiji Temple, National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo