Uchima Ansei

Undated photo of artist

Uchima Ansei 内間安瑆* (American, 1921–2000) 


Source: New York Public Library Prints website http://www.nypl.org/research/chss/spe/art/print/exhibits/pressure/artists3.html

The work of Ansei Uchima reflects a complex fusion of Western and Eastern artistic traditions. Born in California, Uchima returned to Japan at age nineteen, and after World War II studied painting and traditional Japanese printmaking. Through his job as translator for Oliver Statler, an American print collector, who was interviewing artists for a book on contemporary Japanese prints, he was introduced to the sosaku hanga (creative print) movement, which incorporated a Western modernist aesthetic. Like other artists in the sosaku hanga school, Uchima carved, inked, and printed his own wood blocks, enjoying the accidents and unexpected opportunities that arose spontaneously from interaction with the wood block. His first prints, beginning in 1957, drew from nature and the world around him. After he returned to the United States in 1959, his floating, calligraphic compositions, characteristic of sosaku hanga, suggested the growing influence of Abstract Expressionism. Uchima used Japanese paper made especially for him by a Japanese master papermaker and National Treasure, Ichibei Iwano.

* also seen as 内間安セイ(王星) and 内間安王星 


Source: Asian Traditions Modern Expressions, Asian American Artists and Abstraction 1945-1970, Jeffrey Wechsler, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1977, p. 177-178.

Ansei Uchima – Born 1921, Stockton, California; lives in New York, New York.

Uchima, the son of Japanese immigrants, grew up in Los Angeles. In 1940, in accordance with his father’s wishes, he went to Tokyo to study architecture at Waseda University. When Japan entered World War II one year later, Uchima was cut off from home. He soon gravitated to the study of painting, which he pursued under the tutelage of Japanese masters and later on his own. His paintings won awards at the Jiyo Bijutsu Art Association annual exhibitions in 1953 and 1954. Uchima began to experiment with printmaking in Japan in 1957, and his work was immediately successful with collectors in Japan and abroad. That same year he shared an exhibition at the Yoseido Gallery in Tokyo with the sculptor Masayuki Nagare and showed his woodcuts in the Tokyo International Print Triennials in 1957 and 1960. In 1950 he returned to the United States with his family and two years later began teaching at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York. After twenty years of teaching, he was named professor emeritus in 1988. In 1967 he became an adjunct professor of printmaking at Columbia University. Besides having over forty one-person exhibitions in the United States and Japan, he has also been included in numerous group exhibitions worldwide. 

Uchima studied painting in oils, but since his involvement with the traditional woodblock method of ukiyo-e while he was in Japan, using sumi and tube watercolors, he has mainly worked in woodblock printing. Due to certain circumstances of the artist’s life, in particular his long residence in Japan during his artistic formative years, Uchima’s oeuvre represents an especially coherent example of the direct interaction of modern printmaking aesthetics in Japan and the United States.

Y. H. (Yuko Higa)

Friendship with Oliver Statler

Source: "Onchi Koshiro - Thoughts and Second Thoughts," Oliver Statler,  Prints of Onchi Koshiro, Keishosha Ltd., 1975.

 Uchima was at my side during all the interviews that went into making of my book Modern Japanese Prints: An Art Reborn. - Oliver Statler

Uchima had a long relationship with Oliver Statler who had a major role in promoting and supporting Japanese artists and their prints after WWII. Ephemera from Statler's life, including cards and letters from Uchima to Statler can be found at the website of the Oliver Statler Collection, University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Ansei Uchima and Oliver Statler (undated)

Oliver Statler Collection, University of Hawaii at Manoa 

Katsu! is a print very similar in feel to the print in this collection Way for Hakone.

The revelatory nature of Zen thought is implied in his print Katsu!, titled after the shout of Zen monks as they urge their students to spiritual discovery.  Itis spontaneous in its own right, with a conglomeration of irregular formspressed swiftly against the paper. 


Source: Article of May 11, 2000, New York Times.

UCHIMA-Ansei. On May 9, 2000, at age 79. Beloved husband of Toshiko, devoted father of Anju and Yoko, proud grandfather of Maya and Lenn, dear brother of Ansho and the late Kei, and Franklin. Esteemed woodblock print artist, painter and Fine Arts Professor. Emeritus Faculty Member at Sarah Lawrence College, where he taught from 1962 to 1982; taught also at Columbia University from 1968 to 1982. Recipient of Guggenheim Fellowships in 1962 and 1970. Work belongs to Permanent Collections of Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, National Gallery of Art, among many others. He was respected and cherished by all who knew him, and will be remembered in his exquisite, harmonic and vibrant prints and paintings. 


Source: Asian Traditions Modern Expressions, Asian American Artists and Abstraction 1945-1970, Jeffrey Wechsle, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1977. 


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Typical Signatures of the Artist

A. Uchima


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Prints in Collection

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