Shikō Munakata: A Way of Seeing at Japan Society, December 10, 2021 – March 20, 2022

Japan Society is pleased to present Shikō Munakata: A Way of Seeing, a new presentation of nearly 100 path-breaking works by the celebrated artist Shikō Munakata (1903–1975). Primarily known for his powerfully expressive woodblock prints in black on white paper, this exhibition reveals the breadth of Munakata’s oeuvre, which spanned from prints to calligraphy, sumi ink paintings, watercolors, lithography, and ceramics and occasionally included a vibrant color palette inspired by the colorful lantern floats in the annual Nebuta Festivals of his native Aomori Prefecture. Organized from Japan Society’s rare collection—the largest Munakata collection in the United States—the installation revisits this imaginative twentieth-century artist. 

A highlight of the installation is the complete Tōkaidō Series (1964), a set of sixty-one prints—half in color and half in black-and-white—that depict scenes the artist witnessed while traveling along the historic coastal route between Tokyo and Kyoto. Munakata’s series extends to Osaka, building upon the nineteenth-century ukiyo-e master printmaker Utagawa Hiroshige’s (1797–1858) portrayal of the traditional fifty-three stations. This full set by Munakata will be on view for the first time since 1965.” Japan Society 

Installation views of Shikō Munakata: A Way of Seeing at Japan Society. Photos by Corrado Serra.

“Black and white are absolute. Expressing the most delicate vibration, the most profound tranquility, and unlimited profundity.” —Shikō Munakata

Shikō Munakata: A Way of Seeing is organized by Japan Society and curated by Tiffany Lambert, Curator, Japan Society. Original exhibition design is by New York-and-Barcelona based MAIO who provide a fresh, complimentary display that uses the artworks themselves to define the exhibition space and viewing experience.

“Shikō Munakata created his artworks from an unusual closeness. A visual impairment made him work with his eyes just inches from the woodblock, thus focusing on specific areas and details more so than the whole, a fact that reinforces even more the haptic nature of the works,” says MAIO. “The exhibition display aims to restitute this feeling of closeness, while playing freely with reinterpreted techniques and concepts, such as urazaishiki (back-coloring) or zakki (a set of ordinary elements) to bring a new perspective to the broad corpus of his works.”