Ayashii : Decadent and Grotesque Images of Beauty in Modern Japanese Art*
23 March – 16 May 2021
The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo
*Official English translation of the original Japanese title “Ayashii-e ten” (あやしい絵展)
The MOMAT will host a fascinating show delving into modern Japanese art through paintings, drawings, prints and illustrations that are compelling but may defy the usual categories of art history.
What not to miss at the “Ayashii-e” exhibit
The Japanese word “ayashii” is an adjective that covers a spectrum of unsettled feelings toward who-knows-what – things that are unclear, vague, shadowy, strange, disconcerting or disturbing.
The qualifier thus has multiple connotations such as: mysterious and enigmatic, suspicious and dubious, spooky and eerie, and even erotic and sexy.
The upcoming show will cast a new light to modern Japanese art by employing this equivocal word to capture fantastic, but somehow elusive, paintings and pictures, many of which depict female figures.
These works on display were produced in the period between the late Edo and the early Showa eras, from the late 19th through the early 20th century.
It was a turbulent time when Japan experienced tremendous social changes via the opening up of the country, modernization, capitalism and imperialism.
That prompted a modern aesthetic and moral, new emotions and expressions of people and art, form agony and anxiety to romanticism, aestheticism and individualism.
Works featured at the “Ayashii-e” exhibit
Among the highlights are works of Soga Shohaku (1730-1781), Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798-1861), Kawanabe Kyosai (1831-1889), Fujishima Takeji (1867-1943), Kamimura Shoen (1875-1949), Kaburaki Kiyotaka (1878-1972), Hayami Gyosyu (1894-1935), Mizushima Niou (1884-1958), Tachibana Sayume (1892-1970), Kainosho Tadaoto (1894–1978), and Shima Seien (1892-1970).
Works of romanticism by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882) and art nouveau images by Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939), both influential in Japanese modern art, are also on view.
*For the Japanese names in this article, family names are followed by given names.
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