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"Urban Metamorphosis: One Hundred Views of New Tokyo"
2001-01-20 until 2001-04-29
Carnegie Museum of Art
Pittsburgh, PA, USA

The 100 color woodblock prints in the exhibition chronicle the transformation of old Tokyo into a modern city and are among the most impressive modern Japanese prints to be found in Carnegie Museum of Art's James B. Austin collection. According to Linda Batis, associate curator of fine arts and organizer of the exhibition, this collection is one of the most important assemblages of its kind in the country.

In 1923, Tokyo was devastated by an earthquake that destroyed half of its buildings, including virtually all of Shitamachi - the oldest district, and town center. In the rebuilding process, the one- and two-storied wood and brick structures of the past were replaced by modern five- and six-storied buildings of concrete and steel in the European style. Motorways for automobiles, a subway system, parks, dance halls, theatres -- all of these were elements that went into Tokyo's new, twentieth-century urban environment.

Print artists recorded the city and its colorful spaces, and One Hundred Views of New Tokyo (Shin Tokyo hyakkei), published between 1929 and 1932, is the work of eight artists who collaborated to produce a collection of woodblock prints depicting the city's buildings, public spaces, and social customs. Their collective portrait preserves a vital and vibrant culture that was soon lost when Tokyo was destroyed by the bombs of World War II.

Among these eight printmakers were such famous artists as: Onchi Koshiro, perhaps the greatest and most admired modern printmaker in Japan; Hiratsuka Un'ichi, later to become famous for his prints of American scenes; and Maekawa Senpan, whose work has long been admired by modern print connoisseurs. These artists traveled the city and its environs, capturing the energy of the modern urban environment and using innovative printmaking techniques to portray it.

Thomas Rimer, professor and chair of East Asian languages and literatures at the University of Pittsburgh, is the curator of the exhibition that has been organized to reflect the city, rather than the artists. Featured are some of the traditional sites that survived the earthquake along with completely new structures like gas stations and baseball stadiums. In order to place these prints in the ongoing flow of change that the city of Tokyo represents, this exhibition is also accompanied by a series of recent photographs by Yasuko Oitate (taken in 1998) at the very locations of many of the prints.


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