Northern Illinois University

Northern Today

Art Museum celebrates Japanese art, benefactor’s donations

January 7, 2008

Some high culture of the Far East has come to NIU’s Art Museum.

From Tuesday, Jan. 15, through Friday, March 7, the museum presents the multifaceted “National/International Consciousness in Japan: Self, Place, and Society during the Nineteenth, Twentieth, and Twenty-first Centuries” project.

Exhibitions include “Ayomi Yoshida Installation,” “Ukiyo-e Prints from the Richard F. Grott Family Collection,” “Revisiting Modern Japanese Prints: Selected Works from the Richard F. Grott Family Collection” and, curated by NIU Professor Emerita Helen Merritt, “Japanese Pottery from the Richard F. Grott Family Collection.”

Ayomi Yoshida, detail from “Reverberation Ad Infinitum,” carved plywood installation at Target Corporation Headquarters, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2003. Image courtesy of the artist.

Japanese artist Yoshida has been in residency since late December to install a large scale site-specific installation exploring the physical aspects of the woodblock printmaking process.

During the final weeks of installation, beginning Tuesday, Jan. 15, the gallery will be open to the public so that visitors can view the process in progress and engage directly with Yoshida and her spouse and primary installation assistant, Bidou Yamaguchi. The public also is invited to the gala reception from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 24.

The Tsukasa Taiko Drummers will give a traditional Japanese drumming demonstration during the reception at 5:15 p.m. and again at 6 p.m. The Tsukasa Taiko drum ensemble will perform later that evening at 8 p.m. in the Music Building’s Boutell Memorial Concert Hall.

Yoshida is the fourth generation of the Japanese Yoshida family artist dynasty. Her temporary installation will both contrast and augment the concurrent Richard F. Grott Family Collection exhibitions at the NIU Art Museum.

Her installations utilize the exact same tools and carving techniques of traditional wood block printmaking and carry the artistic evolution of Japanese printmaking to today. 

Her artworks explore the physical aspects of the woodblock printmaking process, which involves carving into the wood, rolling ink onto the resulting raised areas, and then pressing paper against the block thus transferring the image from the raised surface to the paper. 

A working artist for nearly 30 years, Yoshida’s works have been featured in the British Museum, the Minneapolis Institute of Art and other venues including several international print biennials. Yoshida created her only permanent installation for Target Corporation at its Minneapolis headquarters from 2003. She also designed limited edition gift wrap with Target in 2006 to distribute in its stores under the moniker “Ayomi Yosida: ART + DESIGN.” She is currently working on a second series of gift wrap which will be available in May.

Fumio Kitaoka, Fishing Village in the Afternoon, woodcut,15-5/8 inches x 21-1/2 inches, 1966. Gift of Richard F. Grott.

Richard F. Grott, head of his own consulting firm, Richard G. Enterprises, Inc., spent 25 years in top-level management with Encyclopedia Britannica and 15 years living and working in Asia.

He not only collected modern prints, but actually met many of the famous artists associated with the sôsaku hanga movement. Artists in this vein represented a clear departure from the traditional collaborative and commercial “craft” of the ukiyo-e print tradition. Sôsaku hanga artists sought to exert their originality and expressive powers as modern artists by creating prints with their own hands.

Selections from Grott’s donation and family collection also display the fundamental differences between Japan’s ukiyo-e tradition of the Edo period (1615-1867) and modern 20th century prints. The exhibitions will introduce technical and thematic features of the traditional multicolor woodblock prints created through publishers who brought together the expert skills of carvers, printers and designers.

A catalog with an essay co-authored by NIU Professor Emerita Helen Merritt and NIU Art History Assistant Professor Helen Nagata, alongside research and writing from NIU undergraduate and graduate students from a seminar on Japanese prints in spring 2007, will supplement this exhibition.

The NIU Art Museum is located on the west end of the first floor of Altgeld Hall. The galleries are open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and by appointment for group tours. Exhibitions are free; donations are appreciated.

The exhibitions of the NIU Art Museum are funded in part by the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, the Friends of the NIU Art Museum and the Arts Fund 21. Support also has come from The Japan Foundation New York and the James and Helen Merritt Foundation of the School of Art. The JASC Tsukasa Taiko drum performance is supported in part by a Venture Grant from the NIU Foundation and the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.

For more information, visit www.vpa.niu.edu/museum or call (815) 753-1936.