Source: website of Florida International University's Wolfsonian Museum http://www.wolfsonian.fiu.edu/exhibitions/current/tokyo.main.html
TOKYO: THE IMPERIAL CAPITAL: WOODBLOCK PRINTS BY KOIZUMI KISHIO, 1928-1940
Wolfsonian-Florida International University Exhibition
November 21, 2003–May 2, 2004
At 11:58 a.m. on 1 September 1923 an earthquake struck Tokyo and eastern Japan with devastating force. A vigorous rebuilding campaign restored the city and transformed it into Japan's imperial capital, despite the rigors of economic depression both locally and abroad.
One of the woodblock-print artists who captured the drama of its rebirth was Koizumi Kishio (1893–1945), who created One Hundred Pictures of Great Tokyo in the Showa Era (Showa dai Tokyo hyakuzue) from 1928 to 1940. The Wolfsonian's portfolio of Koizumi's prints depicts the transformation of a key Asian city as it embraced modernity, maintained traditions, and became the backdrop for the militaristic ambitions of empire.
A Biographical Note
Koizumi Kishio was born in 1893 in Shizuoka, on Japan's southern coast. His father, a master calligrapher, recognized his son's talent for drawing and encouraged him to pursue a career as an artist, or more literally in Japanese, one who draws pictures (e-kaki). During this period, an artist could make a reasonable living as an illustrator or as a designer for textiles, ceramics, and lacquer wares.
Koizumi moved to Tokyo in 1909 or 1910, where he enrolled in the Japan Watercolor Academy (Nihon Suisaiga Kenkyusho), founded in 1907 by artists interested in the artistic culture of the West. The school was at the heart of the new printmaking movement in Japan, in which artists single-handedly conceived and produced their own prints.
Koizumi exhibited with the emerging organizations that accepted the new style of printmaking and was among the first members of the Nihon Sosaku-Hanga Kyokai (Japanese Guild of Creative Printmakers). In 1920 he produced a twelve-print series of Tokyo that depicted mainly nostalgic views of the old eastern part of the city around Asakusa. Between 1928 and 1937 Koizumi produced One Hundred Pictures of Great Tokyo in the Showa Era (Showa dai Tokyo hyakuzue). In the late 1930s, despite declining health, he began work on thirty-six views of Mount Fuji. At the time of his death on 7 December 1945 he had completed work on twenty-three of the Mount Fuji prints. In the following year, they were exhibited at the Mitsukoshi Department Store in Tokyo.
One Hundred Pictures of Great Tokyo in the Showa Era
One Hundred Pictures of Great Tokyo in the Showa Era (Showa dai Tokyo hyakuzue), by Koizumi Kishio, provides contemporary audiences with an opportunity to explore the rebirth of Tokyo in the years following the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923.
Since the thirteenth century, the organizing principle of "one hundred" had been used to canonize auspicious themes in Japanese poetry (and later in art). In printmaking this form reached its peak in the first half of the nineteenth century. Koizumi's personal list of one hundred sites in the newly rebuilt Tokyo mixed popular choices with selections that are obscure and arcane. His highly personalized interpretations of the city and depictions of settings that carried great meaning for him are a pantheon of important views—from modern facilities such as Haneda Airport to nostalgic renderings of revered ancient temples. Koizumi's role as a nominator of new places, and as a subtle provocateur who presented politically charged suggestions in a highly traditional format, may be seen as a unique contribution to the Japanese printmaking genre.
Press Release for the Exhibition
Source: website of Florida International University's Wolfsonian Museum http://www.wolfsonian.org/visitus/press/06.26.03.html.
TOKYO: THE IMPERIAL CAPITAL OPENS NOVEMBER 21, 2003 AT THE WOLFSONIAN–FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY IN MIAMI BEACH; A SELECTION OF WOODBLOCK PRINTS FROM A PORTFOLIO BY KISHIO KOIZUMI REVEALS TRANSFORMATION OF A CITY
On September 1, 1923, at 11:58 a.m., an earthquake struck eastern Japan with devastating force. Tokyo suffered vast damage and loss of life. Attempts to reconstruct the metropolis were complicated by domestic and international economic depression in the late 1920s. Ultimately, however, a vigorous rebuilding program, particularly robust during the 1930s, virtually transformed the city's face and patterns of life.
This fall, The Wolfsonian–Florida International University will present Tokyo: The Imperial Capital, an exhibition of woodblock prints by Japanese artist Kishio Koizumi (1893-1945). The exhibition will run from November 21, 2003 to May 2, 2004. Koizumi captured the drama of the rebirth of the imperial Japanese capital in the portfolio One Hundred Pictures of Great Tokyo in the Showa Era (Showa dai Tokyo hyakuzue), produced in installments from 1928 to 1940. The Wolfsonian's Koizumi prints form the core of an exhibition that will examine the shape and texture of a great Asian city as it manifested the modern, searched for stability in tradition, and became the site of ultimately disastrous political policies.
For most of the twentieth century Tokyo has embodied dramatic transformations. Soon after Koizumi documented the post-earthquake renewal, Tokyo was again reshaped following the Second World War. These images provide a snapshot of a city striving toward imperial splendor.
"Only in recent years have social and art historians begun to carefully study the art produced in Japan during the sixty or so years of extraordinary social change between the 'reopening' to interaction with the world in the 1860s and the debacle of the Pacific war. Within this huge body of visual material are fascinating indicators and clues about larger cultural and political shifts," comments James T. Ulak, the chief curator of the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., who co-curated the show with The Wolfsonian's assistant director for exhibitions and curatorial affairs, Marianne Lamonaca. Ulak also serves as head of the collections and research division for the Freer and Sackler.
"Kishio Koizumi used as his framework the well-known nineteenth-century print series The Hundred Views of Edo by Hiroshige," Lamonaca explains. "But in this case he records the period following the Great Earthquake of 1923, when Tokyo was being rebuilt according to Westernized ideas about what a modern, international city should be."
Through these prints he embraces the modern spirit of the times but also maintains certain aspects of traditional Japanese culture, she adds. "It's evident in the content, but it's also based in the time-honored technique of printmaking. He accepts modern amenities but insists on respecting the past." For example, new facilities such as the Haneda International Airport are juxtaposed with traditional structures, such as the Asakusa Kannon Temple, whose main building was spared in the earthquake and became a symbol of survival.
Rather than portray the actual devastation and resulting pain and dislocation caused by the earthquake, Koizumi's prints look forward, to a future bright with promise. Yamashita Entrance to Ueno Park, completed in September 1931, depicts the area once associated with the enormous refugee camp created in September 1923 to manage the displaced residents of Tokyo. Koizumi contrasts the memory of turmoil with the peacefulness of 1931, a time when women can walk alone at night and in Western dress.
In both of the prints Yamashita Entrance to Ueno Park and Subway in Spring (March 1937), "we also see how women enjoyed new freedoms in Koizumi's depictions of this newly modern city," Lamonaca observes. Subway in Spring portrays young girls traveling to a modern department store, eager to participate in consumer culture, and unescorted by men.
"Along with the introduction of modern amenities, such as a subway and department stores, the creation of this imperial city included an airport and other facilities implicated in the military buildup that led to the Second World War," Lamonaca says.
By the time Koizumi developed Haneda International Airport in March 1937, Japan had become an aviation powerhouse, and claimed a substantial airplane manufacturing capacity. Military aircraft had already been victorious in numerous excursions over China and Manchuria.
When Koizumi produced Army Shooting Range at Okubo in August 1937, the China war had already started. Koizumi was so impressed that the elite soldiers of Japan were training at such a firing range that he wrote, "The sound of live fire is invigorating."
Representative of the individual artist-printmaker sosaku hanga (creative print) movement that was emerging at the time, Koizumi worked directly with the materials, actually carving the blocks himself and making the prints. The resulting prints reveal highly personalized interpretations of the city and its meanings.
"The Koizumi series is a perfect fit for The Wolfsonian and its mission: a neglected group of prints that can be studied for the multiple stories they tell about the many roles of art as observer, critic, and enabler of social change as a society encounters modernity," notes co-curator James T. Ulak.
Photographs and contemporaneous documents will complement the print display. A catalogue co-authored by Ulak, Lamonaca, and Frederic A. Sharf, collector and independent scholar, will consider the Koizumi ensemble in the context of art history and the social trends of the period.