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