Improvisation in Wood: Kawamata x Munakata

Improvisation in Wood: Kawamata x Munakata Improvisation in Wood: Kawamata x Munakata


(l to r): Courtesy of Japan Society. © Tadashi Kawamata.

September 30, 2021 – January 16, 2022

Japan Society presents Improvisation in Wood: Kawamata x Munakata, an ambitious exhibition of major works by two preeminent Japanese artists from different generations: Tadashi Kawamata (1953–) and Shikō Munakata (1903–1975). Each artist made significant contributions to their respective media with unconventional and individualistic approaches to working with wood. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Japan Society’s landmark building designed by Junzo Yoshimura, this two-artist exhibition initiates a cross-generational dialogue that reexamines artistic legacy. Contemporary artist Tadashi Kawamata pays homage to Japan Society’s building—the first permanent structure in New York City built by a Japanese citizen—as well as to the master 20th century woodblock artist, Munakata. Kawamata’s new site-specific installation engages prints by Munakata and draws inspiration from Munakata’s signature materials of wood, paper, and ink.

Known for his architectural interventions on public spaces, Kawamata renegotiates the history and memory of a specific place in time. A throughline of the exhibition centers on the importance of New York City on their careers. Kawamata was the first Asian artist-in-residence in 1984 at PS1, where he fostered his early career with a dynamic scale of projects, including his seminal Project on Roosevelt Island (1992). Munakata, an internationally renowned artist associated with the sosaku hanga (creative print) movement and recognized by leaders of the mingei (folk craft) movement, revolutionized the concept of the woodblock print, shifting its understanding as a traditional craft to neo-traditionalism. Displaying pointed juxtapositions between Japan Society’s core collection of Munakata prints alongside new works and archival material by Kawamata, the installation reveals the ways in which the presentation of art and history are shaped by context and perspective.

Improvisation in Wood: Kawamata x Munakata is supported, in part, by the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, the W.L.S. Spencer Foundation, The Japan Foundation, and The American Chai Trust.

Exhibitions and Arts & Culture Lecture Programs at Japan Society are made possible, in part, by the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Endowment Fund, the Mary Griggs Burke Endowment Fund established by the Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke Foundation, Masako H. Shinn, Peggy and Dick Danziger, Raphael and Jane Bernstein, Friends of the Gallery, and an anonymous donor. Support for Arts & Culture Lecture Programs is provided, in part, by the Sandy Heck Lecture Fund. Transportation assistance is provided by Japan Airlines, the exclusive Japanese airline sponsor of Gallery.

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