So once again it is that time of year. Starting on Friday, October 14th and running through the weekend, the College Women’s Association of Japan‘s annual exhibition and sale of modern Japanese hanga is on at the Tokyo American Club. Admission is free and open to everyone and the prints themselves are as varied and well-priced as they always are. Whether you go every year or this is your first time, I recommend that you do not miss this show. It is a chance to view and purchase top quality original art, whether you are looking for a souvenir of time in Japan, are a serious art collector or are simply tired of looking at your bare white walls. I am going to highlight a few pieces from the show in this post, but if you are not familiar with the history of Japanese printmaking I recommend that you read my Hanga 101 primer first.

The cover print shown above, Evening Snow on Mt. Hira, is by master printmaker KUROSAKI Akira (it is a standard device to put the last name first in capital letters), whose print last year was also on my top list and sold out completely. Kurosaki is working on a series called “Eight Views of Omi,” a title reference to the early ukiyo-e series by Ando Hiroshige. I continue to think they are his best prints in years and that by looking backwards, he is actually moving forwards.

Another artist moving forward by looking backward is URATANI Hiroto with his (Face I <Hill Form>). After years of similar looking prints – colored and lined rolling fields – his entry this year builds on those hill forms by creating a face from them while also speaking to earlier 20th century printmakers and even, to my mind, Modigliani.

I am never normally an animal print lover, but the charm and fun of IMAI Yosuke’s Braid has really caught my attention this year. I know you dog aficionados are going to like this one.

And KIM Sohee must have the funniest sense of humor of any of the artists in the show. Her inaugural entry last year made the catalog cover and left everyone smiling. This year’s print is hysterical and inventive again.

For sheer prettiness, I think there is a tie between MATSUSHIMA Junko’s Spring Scent No. 3 and…

…OKAWA Miyuki’s A Life, and A Life over Lives.

Nostalgic Japan prints, while lovely, don’t always push the artistic envelope. This year, NORIKANE Hiroto’s Big Roof-2 (Autumn) is so visually arresting in the way the roof dominates the space that I have to change that opinion.

Traditional CWAJ Print Show rules require submitted prints to be from the current year or one prior. New changes in these rules have allowed invited artists (as opposed to those prints selected by jury) to submit older work. For example, in this NAKAYAMA Tadashi Wind/Girl from 1956, the youthful exuberance not only of the subject, but also of the artist, shines through.

The guaranteed sell out? YAMAMOTO Keisuke’s Kiyomizu Temple covered with snow. If possible, it may even be more beautiful that last year’s print, as well as smaller, with a dusky blue of twilight. Supposably, you cannot see the temple from this angle, so he is working entirely from his memory, not a photo. Make sure to enlarge this one by clicking it. Even the poor quality of the scan cannot hide the incredible quality and detail of his lithography technique.

The winner of best title goes to ZHUANG Man for her Outside Is All Buzzing of Cicadas, as I find the roar of late summer cicadas in Japan to be a romantic sign of our return after the summer, but I have also always admired her moody detailed mezzotints. I believe she was a dentist before she became an artist, so fine detail work comes easily to her. Part of what made me notice her print so strongly this year is that is sits on the page of the catalog right next to…

…my absolute favorite print in the show – YOSHIHARA Eri’s Mark Rothko’s chair. I have had a passion for Rothko’s work since college and am currently having a bit of a Thonet chair obsession. But even if you don’t, it is just such a witty print and the scan doesn’t do it justice. This is Yoshihara’s first year in the show and it reminds me that new artists are what interest me most and leads me to my next topic…

…the Young Printmaker Award. Once again, I must offer up a caveat as I co-chaired this committee with the lovely Akiko Tatsuke, but I am so excited by our winning artist and our returning artist.

HIROSE Risa, with her stunning collage of finely detailed wood engravings supplemented by rose petal ink, was the recipient of this year’s award. The photo of Document-A Taste of Impressions in the catalog is about the size of a postage stamp, and cannot do the 97 x 67cm print justice, even if enlarged here. In addition to her winning print, we have two smaller works for sale including this one shown below, The Time Before Morning is Over (which could also be in contention for best title). To really get a sense of her work and technique, please see Artist Spotlight…Rise Hirose’s Ephemeral Beauties.

Our returning YPA winner from 3 years ago is ISHIZAKI Miku who also has three extraordinary works in the show, printed on her signature handmade washi paper. They are gorgeously textural and warm.

Don’t miss the Associate Show in the downstairs Fred Harris Gallery either, an incredble retrospective of work by HAGIWARA Hideo, spanning some 50 years and including amazing prints from his Mt. Fuji series.

The CWAJ Print Show opens at 11am on Friday, October 14th until 8pm that evening. I’ll be there from opening until about 3pm working as a docent. I’m available to answer questions and give tours. The show continues 11am-6pm on Saturday and again from 11am-5pm on Sunday. There are so many more prints I could mention here, but unfortunately not room for them all. Catalogs are available for sale at the show if you would like to have a record of all the prints.

Interested in working on the Print Show? Join CWAJ and get started.  Volunteers are needed for returning day in November and that will give you a chance to actually touch and see the work close up.

Image Credits: All images from the 56th CWAJ Print Show catalogue.

Related Posts:
Hanga 101…A Quick Primer on Japanese Prints
Artist Spotlight…55th CWAJ Print Show
Artist Spotlight…Rise Hirose’s Ephemeral Beauties