Bokujinkai: Japanese Calligraphy and the Postwar Avant-Garde


The Bokujinkai—or ‘People of the Ink’—was a group formed in Kyoto in 1952 by five calligraphers, Morita Shiryū, Inoue Yūichi, Eguchi Sōgen, Nakamura Bokushi, and Sekiya Yoshimichi. The avant-garde calligraphy movement they launched aspired to raise calligraphy to the same level of international prominence as abstract painting. To realize this vision, the Bokujinkai established creative collaborations with artists from European Art Informel and American Abstract Expressionism, and soon began sharing exhibition spaces with them in New York, Paris, Tokyo, and beyond. By focusing on this exceptional moment in the history of Japanese calligraphy, I show how the Bokujinkai rerouted the trajectory of global abstract art and attuned foreign audiences to calligraphic visualities and narratives.

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Eugenia Bogdanova-Kummer specializes in modern Japanese art. After earning her Ph.D. from Heidelberg University, she held a postdoctoral position at the Smithsonian Freer|Sackler Galleries before joining the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures.
Bokujinkai: Japanese Calligraphy and the Postwar Avant-Garde addresses all readers with an intellectual interest in East Asian art; postwar Japanese, European, and American art; Japanese cultural history; calligraphy; abstraction; and transcultural exchange.