"A New Style of Woodblock Printing"
Kurosaki Akira 黒崎彰 (January 10, 1937-May 14, 2019)
A major figure in modern mokuhanga (woodblock prints using water-based inks), Kurosaki developed an interest in ukiyo-e prints and techniques while in college, taking pleasure in late-period Edo and Meiji period works, struck by their intense colors. He produced his first woodblock prints in 1965 and would go on to also work in silkscreen, collagraph and mixed media, creating works which express "contemporary ideas while respecting traditional Japanese materials and methods." His work, mostly abstract or semi-representational, was shown in major domestic and international exhibitions, winning numerous awards including the 1st Florence International Print Biennale Gold Award and the World Print Award for Contemporary Masters and World Print Awards (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art). He became an authority on both Japanese and Korean paper, conducted extensive research on prints and authored a variety of articles and books on printmaking. He taught throughout his career, culminating in being made professor emeritus at Kyoto Seika University. Beginning in the late 1970s Akira worked as visiting professor and artist-in-residence at various universities in the United States, Europe and Asia. In 2008 he received the Order of the Sacred Treasure, 3rd class by the emperor. His work is in the collections of the British Museum, Museum of Modern Art New York, and Tokyo’s National Museum of Modern Art, among many others.
 Continuum, Pyramid Atlantic, Innovative Prints From 1992-2007, Katherine L. Blood, Pyramid Atlantic Gallery
Prints in Collection
click on image for details
Note: Biography compiled primarily from the following sources: Akira Kurosaki Woodblock Prints, 1965-1983, Hideo Tomiyama and Akira Kurosaki, Shirota Gallery November, 1984 and The Complete Works of Akira Kurosaki: Catalogue Raisonne: Woodcuts & Paper Works 1965-2006 黒崎彰の全仕事. Tokyo, Abe Shuppan, 2006. Quoted material is footnoted.
Sampling of the Artist's Work Over the Decades
Kurosaki at work in his atelier 2010 - applying dosa (a solution of glue and alum) to the completed print Sunset at Seta from the series Eight Views of Ōmi
Note: all sizes are sheet size unless otherwise noted
From 1984 to 1989 Kurosaki focused on three-dimensional paper works. His Dark Rain series used paper collages that had first been printed on, treated with fermented persimmon juice and then drawn on.
“Man’yo” (“Ten Thousand Leaves”) is based on the oldest existing collection of Japanese poetry from the 8th century
Eight Views of Ōmi 近江八景, 2010-2012
I lived near Lake Biwa for five years when I was in elementary school and high school. Although I spent most of my time in Kobe and Kyoto, Ōmi is also my hometown, considering my origin and family ties. I've dreamed of trying this famous subject, which has many masterpieces, for many years, but I couldn't decide and time passed. I started making it with the feeling of jumping from the top of a cliff. [translated from https://www.galerie-miyawaki.com/PastExhibitions.htm
Eight Views of Ōmi along with Man’yo (“Ten Thousand Leaves”) were his final series before his death.
Five of the Eight Views
Note: compiled primarily from Hideo Tomiyama's forward to Akira Kurosaki Woodblock Prints 1965-1983, Shirota Gallery, 1984, p. 15-19 and an interview with the artist appearing in The Complete Works of Akira Kurosaki: Catalogue Raisonne: Woodcuts & Paper Works 1965-2006 黒崎彰の全仕事. Tokyo, Abe Shuppan, 2006. Quoted material is separately footnoted.
In his forward to the first major publication of Akira's work, Akira Kurosaki Woodblock Prints, 1965-1983, Hideo Tomiyama, Deputy Director of The Tokyo Museum of Modern Art, credits Akira's 1970 series Red Darkness with launching his international career. Prints in this series used up to 8 blocks, 15 colors and were printed as many as 70 times.
Akira maintained a busy international schedule for much of his career, starting in 1973 when he received an international travel grant from the Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs, which he spent studying printmaking techniques, including woodcut, at Harvard University, Hamburg's Hochshule fur Bildende Kunts and other institutions. Upon his return he produced the ten print portfolio America (see "Sampling of the Artist's Work Over the Decades" above) which made use of zinc relief photo blocks, a technique learned during his travels. In the summer of 1979, under the sponsorship of the Japan Art and Culture Association, he entered works in the Exhibition of Modern Japanese Art in Beijing, spending several weeks visiting Beijing, Harbin, and Shanghai as a member of the Japanese delegation. This trip was the impetus for the ten print portfolio China. (See this collection's print IHL Cat. #2032 Hello, Ms. Mao.)
In 1983 he would return to Harvard to teach woodblock printing, commuting between Cambridge and Kyoto. In 1992, he was invited by the Munch Museum to conduct research on the Japanese paper Munch printed on. Almost every year would find him teaching or lecturing at an overseas location or taking up an overseas artist residency as he did in 1996 at the Tamarind Institute, creating a series of lithographs (see Comb in Yellow above.) His work would appear in over 150 overseas exhibitions during the course of his career and he would serve on numerous international juries and committees. He credits his English speaking ability with easing his way into the international art scene.
International Outlook - Japanese Tradition
"While his outlook is international, his contribution to printmaking has much do do with his revival of the hanmoto system," the traditional ukiyo-e collaborative system where the artist, carver, printer and publisher worked together, engaged in division of labor with well-defined roles.
"The more Kurosaki learnt from the carvers and printers the more he came to doubt the individualistic merits of the sosaku hanga style (where an artist designs, carves and prints their own work) and the more respect he felt for the benefits of the collaborative process. He felt that the contribution of each member of the team from the artist to the printer contributed to the dynamism of the woodblock tradition."
While Kurosaki relied on master printers such as Uchiyama Sohei and Sato Keizo and carvers such as Kitamura Shōichi for his own ambitious body of abstract prints, he never completely abandoned carving and printing his own work, particularly in the 1990s when he began working with a thin and strong Korean paper, hanji, a Korean mulberry paper, that he was introduced to during his 1980 Korea visit. Hollis Goodall, Curator of Japanese Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, notes in her biography of the artist that when Kurosaki started working with Korean paper "he stopped making collaborative prints."
lecturing in April, 2012
As a Teacher
Kurosaki was an active member of the Japan Print Association since 1969. Since the 1980s he regularly contributed to the annual College Women's Association of Japan's (CWAJ) print show.
His published books include, Gendai Mokuhanga (Contemporary Woodblock), Bijutsushuppansha, 1977; Kami: Japanese Handmade Paper (1978); Modern Woodcut Prints: From Japanese Traditional Woodcut Techniques to Modern Methods of Wood-Cut Print (1985); Washi: Japanese Handmade Paper (1987). In 2002 he completed Anatomy of Print History: From Shōsōin to Gauguin (Hangashi kaibō : Shōsōin kara Gōgyan e), the results of his extensive research into the history of prints and the tools and materials used to produce them
In 2016 Kurosaki was awarded the Kyoto Prefecture Culture Prize for Special Achievement, presented for a life time of "remarkable achievements in cultural and artistic activities."
 Kyoto Prefecture website https://www.pref.kyoto.jp/bungei/bunkasho.html
A half-hour recording of a demonstration given by Kurosaki in 1980 at the University of Washington School of Art (with commentary in English)
Akira Kurosake passed away on May 14, 2019 at a hospital in Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto at the age of 82. A private service was held by the family.
Signatures of the Artist and Marks Appearing on Prints
impressed seal of the printer
impressed seal of the printer Uchiyama Sohei