Take a look at most prints from before Japan's introduction to the West and you'll likely find them quite pale and muted. But with the opening of Japan to the West and the introduction of different dyes, all that changed. If you want to see the contrast for yourself, start at the A6 Studio & Gallery in Bend starting Sept. 2.
There, more than two dozen woodblock prints will make up the new exhibit: "Opening Japan: Three Centuries of Japanese Prints."
Executive Director Dawn Boone says bringing the "Opening Japan" exhibit to A6 has been on the table for a couple of years. "We had some trepidation about putting on this specific exhibit...because the prints are so fragile," says Boone. She says extensive retrofitting in the gallery had to take place in preparation for the exhibit.
Because of their age, many of the prints are made with vegetable and mineral dyes and can be quickly bleached by light. "We are looking at art from right before, during, and after Japan opens to the West," Boone explains, "It's not until Japan opens to the West that some of our chemical aniline dyes start making it into the Japanese printmakers' hands, and then the colors become more vibrant and lightfast. Anything before that can fade quickly."
The gallery is taking every measure to ensure that the gallery is dimmer and the prints are protected, including hanging light blocking curtains and UV film on the windows to purchasing blackout blinds that will be hung over each piece. "When you see these kinds of prints in a museum they are in a very lowlight controlled viewing room," Boone says.
A6 has also partnered with organizations throughout the region in an effort to offer the community a deeper understanding of the history and culture behind the art exhibit.
"A6 shows art from our area of expertise as artists: what goes into the making of the art, the composition, and the artist's process" Boone says, "Beyond that, there's so much more to know about Japanese art and Japanese culture."
For the educational piece, the gallery is partnering with Central Oregon Community College, Japanese-American Society of Central Oregon, One Breath Poets, and the Tower Theatre to create a full schedule of talks, classes, and special events. That includes a traditional Japanese tea ceremony led by tea teacher Marjorie Yap, a talk on the pop culture aspect of ukiyo-e prints by art historian Ann Wetherwell of Willamette University, and an introduction to kabuki theatre and performances of select scenes from "The 47 Loyal Samurai" by Portland State University's theater department.
Additionally, A6 will host visiting artists, including renowned printmaker and Oregon State University faculty member Yuji Hiratsuka in mid-September. In October, Midwestern artist Mary Brodbeck will display her woodcut prints, created with the traditional Moku Hanga method, and discuss her creative process.
A special program called Students to A6 will offer arts education to schools throughout Central Oregon. Participating schools can send students on a guided tour and hear a presentation on the art and its historical significance. The presentation is followed by a hands-on printmaking activity.
"Opening Japan: Three Centuries of Japanese Prints"
Opening reception Friday, Sept. 2, 5-9pm; Exhibit tours Saturdays, 4pm
Gallery exhibit Sept. 2-Nov. 20 Free for the exhibit, event prices vary.
A6 Studio & Gallery
550 SW Industrial Way, Suite 189, Bend