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Mokuhanga Prints: Riding the Great Wave

March 18 - April 16, 2013

kiggell print

Ralph Kiggell, Yotsuya Schoolgirls, 1992, mokuhanga print, 17/40


Unlike western woodblock printing that employs oil-based inks, Japanese mokuhanga is a chemical- and solvent-free process that uses water-based inks, such as watercolors, gouaches and vegetable dyes.  Dating back to the 8th century, mokuhanga techniques were first used to print Buddhist texts and images.  Later ukiyo-e prints from the 1800s incorporated mokuhanga to depict vivid battle scenes, actors and courtesans in richly designed silk kimonos, transparent landscapes, and birds and animals from the zodiac.

In June of 2011, Melissa Schulenberg and Carole Mathey traveled to Kyoto, Japan, to attend the 1st International Mokuhanga Conference, where they met numerous artists, 12 of whom were invited to participate in an exhibition at St. Lawrence.  The exhibition’s title, Riding the Great Wave, refers to The Great Wave Off Kanagawa, or simply The Great Wave (ca. 1830), the iconic ukiyo-e print by the Japanese artist Hokusai.

The exhibition highlights the strength and diversity of mokuhanga prints as a contemporary art form.  Unexpected themes range from urban life and human rights to robots and sumo wrestlers.  Some prints present playful interpretations of images found in traditional mokuhanga, including birds, flowers and views of Mt. Fuji, while others depict colorful biomorphic abstractions.  

Melissa also initiated an exchange portfolio, 20 Artists/20 Views, which includes work by international artists from the mokuhanga conference.  There was no predetermined theme, and artists responded to the call with images of waterscapes, studies of color and light, and abstract forms from nature.  The exhibition also includes a selection of traditional Japanese woodcuts, with accompanying curatorial text panels by students from Flint Professor Dorothy Limouze’s special topics seminar on museums and collections.

Melissa Schulenberg is an associate professor of art and art history and teaches printmaking, drawing and artists’ books.  Carole Mathey is the assistant director of the Richard F. Brush Art Gallery.

Artists included in the exhibition:

Åsa Andersson (Sweden)
Katie Baldwin (US)
Annie Bissett  (US)
Brian Curling (US/Germany)
Gerd Endestad (Norway)
Paul Furneaux (UK)
Dariusz Kaca  (Poland)
Catherine Kernan (US)
Ralph Kiggell (UK/Thailand)
Tom Killion (US)
Karen Kunc (US)
Mari LaCure (US)

Kari Laitinen (Finland)
Preston Lawing (US)
Karen Helga Maurstig (Norway)
Terry McKenna (Australia/Japan)
Tuula Moilanen (Finland/Japan)
Yoonmi Nam (Korea/US)
Michael Schneider (Austria)
Melissa Schulenberg (US)
Elisabet Alsos Strand (Norway)
Haru Suzue (Japan)
April Vollmer (US)


portrait of an actor

Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III), Japanese, 1786-1865,
Actor, ukiyo-e print, SLU 71.4


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