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  • Brill | Sense x
  • Japanese Art x

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Eugenia Bogdanova-Kummer

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.

Men in Metal

A Topography of Public Bronze Statuary in Modern Japan

Sven Saaler

In his pioneering study, Men in Metal, Sven Saaler examines Japanese public statuary as a central site of historical memory from its beginnings in the Meiji period through the twenty-first century. Saaler shows how the elites of the modern Japanese nation-state went about constructing an iconography of national heroes to serve their agenda of instilling national (and nationalist) thinking into the masses. Based on a wide range of hitherto untapped primary sources, Saaler combines data-driven quantitative analysis and in-depth case studies to identify the categories and historical figures that dominated public space. Men in Metal also explores the agents behind this visualized form of the politics of memory and introduces historiographical controversies surrounding statue-building in modern Japan.

Conceptualism and Materiality

Matters of Art and Politics

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Edited by Christian Berger

Conceptualism and Materiality. Matters of Art and Politics underscores the significance of materials and materiality within Conceptual art and conceptualism more broadly. It challenges the notion of conceptualism as an idea-centered, anti-materialist enterprise, and highlights the political implications thereof.
The essays focus on the importance of material considerations for artists working during the 1960s and 1970s in different parts of the world. In reconsidering conceptualism’s neglected material aspects, the authors reveal the rich range of artistic inquiries into theoretical and political notions of matter and material. Their studies revise and diversify the account of this important chapter in the history of twentieth-century art — a reassessment that carries wider implications for the study of art and materiality in general.

A History of Russo-Japanese Relations

Over Two Centuries of Cooperation and Competition

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Edited by Dmitry Streltsov and Nobuo Shimotomai

This publication is the result of a three-year research project between eminent Russian and Japanese historians. It offers an an in-depth analysis of the history of relations between Russia and Japan from the 18th century until the present day. The format of the publication as a parallel history presents views and interpretations from Russian and Japanese perspectives that showcase the differences and the similarities in their joint history. The fourteen core sections, organized along chronological lines, provide assessments on the complex and sensitive issues of bilateral Russo-Japanese relations, including the territory problem as well as economic exchange.

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Ronald P. Toby

In Engaging the Other: “Japan and Its Alter-Egos”, 1550-1850 Ronald P. Toby examines new discourses of identity and difference in early modern Japan, a discourse catalyzed by the “Iberian irruption,” the appearance of Portuguese and other new, radical others in the sixteenth century. The encounter with peoples and countries unimagined in earlier discourse provoked an identity crisis, a paradigm shift from a view of the world as comprising only “three countries” ( sangoku), i.e., Japan, China and India, to a world of “myriad countries” ( bankoku) and peoples. In order to understand the new radical alterities, the Japanese were forced to establish new parameters of difference from familiar, proximate others, i.e., China, Korea and Ryukyu. Toby examines their articulation in literature, visual and performing arts, law, and customs.

Shirakaba and Japanese Modernism

Art Magazines, Artistic Collectives, and the Early Avant-garde

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Erin Schoneveld

Shirakaba and Japanese Modernism examines the most significant Japanese art and literary magazine of the early twentieth century, Shirakaba (White Birch, 1910–1923). In this volume Erin Schoneveld explores the fluid relationship that existed between different types of modern visual media, exhibition formats, and artistic practices embraced by the Shirakaba-ha (White Birch Society). Schoneveld provides a new comparative framework for understanding how the avant-garde pursuit of individuality during Japan’s Taishō period stood in opposition to state-sponsored modernism and how this played out in the emerging media of art magazines. This book analyzes key moments in modern Japanese art and intellectual history by focusing on the artists most closely affiliated with Shirakaba, including Takamura Kōtarō, Umehara Ryūzaburō, and Kishida Ryūsei, who selectively engaged with and transformed modernist idioms of individualism and self-expression to create a new artistic style that gave visual form to their own subjective reality. Drawing upon archival research that includes numerous articles, images, and exhibitions reviews from Shirakaba, as well as a complete translation of Yanagi Sōetsu’s seminal essay, “The Revolutionary Artist” ( Kakumei no gaka), Schoneveld demonstrates that, contrary to the received narrative that posits Japanese modernism as merely derivative, the debate around modernism among Japan’s early avant-garde was lively, contested, and self-reflexive.

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Karen M. Gerhart

Women, Rites, and Ritual Objects in Premodern Japan, edited by Karen M. Gerhart, is a multidisciplinary examination of rituals featuring women, in which significant attention is paid to objects produced for and utilized in these rites as a lens through which larger cultural concerns, such as gender politics, the female body, and the materiality of the ritual objects, are explored. The ten chapters encounter women, rites, and ritual objects in many new and interactive ways and constitute a pioneering attempt to combine ritual and gendered analysis with the study of objects.
Contributors include: Anna Andreeva, Monica Bethe, Patricia Fister, Sherry Fowler, Karen M. Gerhart, Hank Glassman, Naoko Gunji, Elizabeth Morrissey, Chari Pradel, Barbara Ruch, Elizabeth Self.

Dancer, Nun, Ghost, Goddess

The Legend of Giō and Hotoke in Japanese Literature, Theater, Visual Arts, and Cultural Heritage

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Roberta Strippoli

Dancer, Nun, Ghost, Goddess explores the story of the dancers Giō and Hotoke, which first appeared in the fourteenth-century narrative Tale of the Heike. The story of the two love rivals is one of loss, female solidarity, and Buddhist salvation. Since its first appearance, it has inspired a stream of fiction, theatrical plays, and visual art works. These heroines have become the subjects of lavishly illustrated hand scrolls, ghosts on the noh stage, and Buddhist and Shinto goddesses. Physical monuments have been built to honor their memories; they are emblems of local pride and centerpieces of shared identity. Two beloved characters in the Japanese literary imagination, Giō and Hotoke are also models that have instructed generations of women on how to survive in a male-dominated world.

Ut pictura amor

The Reflexive Imagery of Love in Artistic Theory and Practice, 1500-1700

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Edited by Walter Melion, Michael Zell and Joanna Woodall

Ut pictura amor: The Reflexive Imagery of Love in Artistic Theory and Practice, 1500-1700 examines the related themes of lovemaking and image-making in the visual arts of Europe, China, Japan, and Persia. The term ‘reflexive’ is here used to refer to images that invite reflection not only on their form, function, and meaning, but also on their genesis and mode of production. Early modern artists often fashioned reflexive images and effigies of this kind, that appraise love by exploring the lineaments of the pictorial or sculptural image, and complementarily, appraise the pictorial or sculptural image by exploring the nature of love. Hence the book’s epigraph— ut pictura amor—‘as is a picture, so is love’.

Laura Moretti

In Recasting the Past: An Early Modern Tales of Ise for Children Laura Moretti recreates in image and text the unresearched 1766 picture-book Ise fūryū: Utagaruta no hajimari (The Fashionable Ise: The Origins of Utagaruta). The introduction analyses Utagaruta through a discussion of the textual scholarship relating to chapbooks and kusazōshi. It also contextualizes this work to shed new light on the reception history of the canonical Tales of Ise and to position Utagaruta within the realm of children’s literature. This is followed by the full transcription and translation of Utagaruta, with annotations to each image. Learned and visually rich, Moretti’s study permits the reader to enjoy the inventiveness and beauty of early modern Japanese literature.