‘Masterpieces of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi’ at Pacific Asia Museum

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Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, Saitō no Oniwakamaru, Japan, 1872, woodblock print on paper. Loaned by the Ed Freis Collection.

PASADENA — Pacific Asia Museum presents “Masterpieces of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi” from May 18 through Aug. 12 in the Changing Exhibition Galleries.

This exhibition of over 100 prints, preparatory drawings, illustrated books and an original carved block marks the first time Pacific Asia Museum has presented a major exhibition of Yoshitoshi’s work.

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892) is regarded as one of the most important Japanese printmakers of the 19th century. Trained originally as a student of Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861), Yoshitoshi broke new ground in composition, subject matter and technique in woodblock printing.

The wide range of work in “Masterpieces of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi” demonstrates the range of his creativity and draws attention to the critical relationships the artist shared with his publishers throughout his career as well as the effect of market forces on his work.

The Meiji period (1868-1912) was a period of dynamic intercultural exchange and economic expansion in Japan, which is clearly reflected in Yoshitoshi’s work. Depictions of steam locomotives and European dress show a new cultural landscape, and his compositions bristle with energy, distinctive shading and perspective.

Other subjects include demons, ghosts, warriors, supernatural animals, popular kabuki actors and well-known beauties, which have contributed to his ongoing popularity.

“Masterpieces of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi” is on view concurrently with two other exhibitions exploring intercultural exchange between Japan and the West.

“Gajin Fujita: Ukiyo-e in Contemporary Painting,” through Oct. 7, is the first solo museum exhibition on the West Coast of the Japanese American artist Gajin Fujita, whose unique combination of traditional technique and street art speaks to similar themes as Yoshitoshi’s work.

“Kimono in the 20th Century,” on view through March 10, 2013, examines Art Deco and jazz influences, among others, in the design of mid-century kimono and accessories.

The touring exhibition is organized by Chris Uhlenbeck and accompanied by the catalogue “Yoshitoshi: Masterpieces from the Ed Freis Collection” (Hotei Publishing, 2011). The exhibition at Pacific Asia Museum is supported by Toyota Financial Services, the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, Sid and Betsey Tyler, and Roy and Maurine Oban.

Pacific Asia Museum is among the few institutions in the U.S. dedicated exclusively to the arts and culture of Asia and the Pacific Islands. The museum’s mission is to further intercultural understanding through the arts of Asia and the Pacific Islands. Since 1971, Pacific Asia Museum has served a broad audience of students, families, adults, and scholars through its exhibitions and programs.

Pacific Asia Museum is located at 46 N. Los Robles Ave., Pasadena. It is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is $9 general, $7 students/seniors, and free for museum members and children under 12. Admission is free every fourth Friday of the month. For more information, visit www.pacificasiamuseum.org or call (626) 449-2742.

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