Sharaku Interpreted by Japan’s Contemporary Artists at the Tennessee State Museum

An exhibition of high quality reproduction prints, taken from woodblocks created by the acclaimed 18th century artist Sharaku presented alongside interpretative works by contemporary Japanese graphic and fine artists, opens at the Tennessee State Museum on February 18th. Sharaku Interpreted by Japan’s Contemporary Artists, which is free to the public, is sponsored by the Consulate-General of Japan and The Japan Foundation.

The exhibition takes as its theme Toshusai Sharaku, known throughout Japan and the world for his bust portraits of Kabuki actors. Sharaku is widely considered to be one of the great masters of ukiyo-e (woodblock) printing in Japan. Little is actually known of him; neither his true name nor the dates of his birth or death are known with any certainty. His active career as a woodblock artist seems to have spanned just 10 months in the mid-Edo period of Japanese history, from middle 1794 to early 1795.

Apart from the original copies of Sharaku’s prints, the exhibition includes works of 11 contemporary Japanese artists who have freely interpreted this Japanese master in the form of paintings and three-dimensional art. This exhibition illustrates the influence of Sharaku’s ukiyo-e prints on Japan’s current graphic designers and contemporary artists.

The exhibition includes 81 works and is divided into three sections that are entitled: “Reproductions of Sharaku,” “Sharaku in Graphic Art” and “Homage to Sharaku.” The first section includes 28 original copies of Toshusai Sharaku’s ukiyo-e prints, which have been reproduced from the original woodblocks by the Adachi Institute of Woodcut Prints.

In the second section of the exhibit which includes 28 graphic art works, leading Japanese graphic designers pay homage to Sharaku in posters which underscore the formalistic links between the ukiyo-e tradition and the development of the graphic art in Japan.

The third section includes 25 pieces where contemporary Japanese artists reflect the influence of Sharaku’s work, each responding in their own personal way, through the use of painting, sculpture, and ceramics.

On view through April 11, 2010, Sharaku Interpreted by Japan’s Contemporary Artists, will be exhibited in the museum’s Changing Galleries, located at Fifth and Deaderick streets in downtown Nashville. The museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday and is free to the public.

About the Consulate-General of Japan:
The Consulate-General of Japan in Nashville opened in 2008 to serve the five-state area of Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee. This made Japan the first and only country to hold a Consulate-General in the State of Tennessee. The mission of the Consulate is to offer consular services to Japanese citizens as well as promoting and assisting with political, economic, and cultural exchanges between Japan and America. Last year, the Consulate started the Nashville Cherry Blossom Festival and began the initiative to plant 1,000 cherry trees over the next decade.

This year’s Nashville Cherry Blossom Festival will be held on March 27, 2010. For more information and inquiries, please contact Terry Vo at [email protected]

Image: Yasumasa Morimura, Self portrait sharaku-4 after Sadanoshin, 1996