Variation and Autonomy: The Prints by Contemporary Japanese Painters

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January 10th, 2018 - March 29th, 2018

Cost: Free
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Print Exhibition

Japan Foundation Touring Exhibition

Variation and Autonomy:

The Prints by Contemporary Japanese Painters

January 10 – March 29, 2018

Sensing the diverse potential of the print medium, in the 1970s, young Japanese artists began making prints, and in so doing, expanded the expressive range of contemporary art as a whole.Though certain aspects of this development have certainly been acknowledged, it was mainly artists who did specialized in or concentrated on prints that served as pivotal figures in post – World War II, contemporary Japanese print-making. Or at the very least, that is the way it looks from this vantage point. In Europe and America, artists who were responsible for trends in contemporary art made printmaking history. But the evolution Japanese printmaking seems to be a singular development in the world.

However, this does not mean that oil painters were not ambitiously engaged in printmaking from the prewar era onward. Some Japanese painters, who had visited printmaking workshops in France, Italy, and Germany, produced copperplate prints and lithographs at technical training sessions or in the workshops of acquaintances, although the number of works was quite small. After World War II, in the 1950s, a growing number of painters worked in lithography and the emergence of the peintre-graveur (painter who is also a printmaker) in Japan was a noted phenomenon. Later, in the 1960s, printmaking rose to greater prominence and printing workshops were opened here and there, creating an environment in which it was normal for artists who were not printmaking specialists, from established painters and sculptors to emerging artists of the avant-garde, to work with printers on production of their own prints. From the 1970s onward, as the market value of prints rose, an even greater number of artists turned their hands to prints in a wide range of styles and media, strongly propelling the world of printmaking forward. This wide-open environment was correlated with a similarly broad range of printmaking expression among painters who were not specialists in printmaking.

This exhibition is not made up of works by artists who are considered to have created a unique or specific development in contemporary Japanese printmaking history, but rather on those by artists who tend to be seen as support players in this process. There are two reasons for this focus. First, the exhibition is designed to shed light on the fact that a new field was developed through contemporary Japanese prints. This field, prints made by painters, is notable both as a variation on painting and an autonomous form. Thus, the works helped establish the genre of contemporary Japanese prints while imbuing it with a suitable breadth. Second, the exhibition is intended to encourage viewers to reconsider the existing history of contemporary Japanese prints. Today, 70 years after World War II, at a point when prints are on the verge of being forgotten as a trend in contemporary art, there is a need, both in Japan and abroad, to reconsider history from a variety of critical perspectives without overlooking the subject of dissolution.

Without a doubt, the prints of the artists featured in this exhibition constitute variations on the medium of painting, yet at the same time they stand alone as works of art that could only be realized through printmaking. Viewing the works of these peintre-graveurs leads us to a genuine understanding of contemporary printmaking in Japan.


42 works by 10 artists

Hitoshi Nakazato, Kosai Hori, Masanari Murai, Naoyoshi Hikosaka,

Natsuyuki Nakanishi, Toeko Tatsuno, Tomoharu Murakami, Toshinobu Onosato

Yasukazu Tabuchi, Yayoi Kusama



Mon 11:30 am – 6:30 pm EXTENDED HOURS

Tues 11:30 am – 4:30 pm

Wed 11:30 am – 4:30 pm

Thurs 11:30 am – 6:30 pm EXTENDED HOURS

Fri 11:30 am – 4:30 pm

Show The Japan Foundation, Toronto

2 Bloor Street East

Hudson’s Bay Centre, 3rd floor

Above Royal Bank of Canada 416.966.1600 x229



Saturday openings:

11:00 am – 4:00 pm

January 13, 27, February 10, 24, March 3, 24

Closed: Other Saturdays and Sundays

February 19 (Family Day)


January 10th, 2018
March 29th, 2018
Event Category:
Doors Open:
11:30 AM
Not required


The Japan Foundation, Toronto
View Organizer Website


The Japan Foundation, Toronto
2 Bloor St. East, 3rd Floor
Toronto, ON M4W 1A8 Canada
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View Organizer Website