Japan House Los Angeles, a Japanese cultural destination in the heart of Hollywood, unveils the launch of its newest exhibition: “Nature/Supernature: Visions of This World and Beyond in Japanese Woodblock Prints.”
Highlighting Japan’s iconic natural landscapes and supernatural beings believed to inhabit them, the exhibition features more than 60 woodblock prints from the coveted Scripps College collection by some of Japan’s finest artists.
The exhibition is available via an online experience, complete with a navigable 3D-virtual tour, exclusive content, a welcome video message, and noteworthy related programs.
The Japanese have long revered their natural landscape, celebrating its bounty and the beauty of the changing seasons in art, literature, travel, and festivals. The power of nature is a central theme in Japanese culture, rooted in the belief that supernatural forces and beings are at work in all aspects of the natural realm. Depending on how humans behave toward nature and each other, these forces can be benign and bountiful, or angry and destructive, causing floods, earthquakes, pestilence and other damage.
“We start the new year with an exhibition that honors the natural environment of Japan and depicts how people lived in awe and appreciation of nature and the supernatural power believed to reside in nature,” said Yuko Kaifu, president of Japan House Los Angeles. “I hope that it inspires visitors to take a closer look at these ancient beliefs that are still relevant to the Japanese way of living today.”
The exhibition will feature three areas. The “Woodblock Printing” area introduces the history and process of Japanese woodblock printing, including very early examples of Japanese printed images, as well as woodblocks, printing tools, pigments and a set of prints illustrating how a full-color print is made.
The “Nature” area includes prints depicting beauty spots in and around the capital of Edo (modern Tokyo) near Mt. Fuji and four other regions: Nikko, Kyoto, the Seto Inland Sea, and Nagano. These beautiful landscape prints are by some of Japan’s most famous artists: Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858), Yōshū Chikanobu (1838-1912), Kawase Hasui (1883-1957) and Yoshida Hiroshi (1876-1950).
The “Supernature” area explores some of the spiritual and supernatural beings believed to inhabit and influence nature and human lives. These include images of deities worshipped for centuries to ensure bountiful harvests, protection from floods and other calamities, as well as supernatural animals, trickster spirits, ghosts and demons. These lively prints were designed by artists including Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1864), Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861), Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892) and Kawanabe Kyōsai (1831-1889).
The following exhibition-related events are scheduled for February and March, with more programs to be announced in April and May.
• Curator’s Talk: “Nature/Supernature: Visions of This World and Beyond in Japanese Woodblock Prints,” Monday, Feb. 22, 5 to 6 p.m. PST (www.japanhousela.com/events/nature-supernature-curators-talk/)
This online lecture by Meher McArthur, Japanese art historian and curator of “Nature Supernature,” will examine the history of woodblock printing in Japan, the importance of the art form in Japanese traditional culture, and the ways some of Japan’s most renowned artists of the 19th and early 20th centuries used this art form to depict aspects of nature and the supernatural.
• Film Screening: “A Letter to Momo,” Monday, March 1, to Wednesday, March 31, anytime (www.japanhousela.com/events/film-screening-a-letter-to-momo/)
This film complements the “Supernature” area of the exhibition that explores spiritual and supernatural folklore yōkai stories. In the film, a young Momo, clinging to an unfinished letter written by her recently deceased father, moves with her mother from bustling Tokyo to the remote Japanese island of Shio. It’s not long before several bizarre occurrences crop up around the previously tranquil island.
Momo embarks on a strange and supernatural adventure to discover the source of the mischief, which leads her to a trio of troublesome imps: the flatulent lizard Kawa, the childlike Mame, and their hulking ogre leader Iwa. Momo also learns that her visit to the island is in some way connected to her father’s mysterious letter.
• Webinar Conversation: “Yōkai Past and Present” with Michael Dylan Foster and Zack Davisson, Thursday, March 25, 5-6 p.m. PST (www.japanhousela.com/events/yokai-past-and-present/)
This webinar will be a lively conversation between two experts in yōkai, Michael Dylan Foster, professor of Japanese folklore and literature at UC Davis, and Zack Davisson, yōkai expert, author and translator of Mizuki Shigeru manga. Foster will examine the evolving roles of yōkai in Japanese history, folklore, literature and theater, focusing on some of the most important and well-known examples of these supernatural creatures. Davisson will explore the influence of yōkai on modern-day manga, anime, video games and other aspects of modern Japanese culture.
The conversation will be moderated by “Nature/Supernature” curator Meher McArthur. For more information, visit the Japan House Los Angeles website and social channels: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
The opening day of the physical gallery at Japan House Los Angeles will be announced on a later date, following guidance by local governments and the local health department.
Japan House is an innovative, worldwide project with three hubs, London, Los Angeles and Sao Paulo, conceived by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. It seeks to nurture a deeper understanding and appreciation of Japan in the international community. Japan House Los Angeles, which occupies two floors at Hollywood and Highland, offers a place of new discovery that transcends physical and conceptual boundaries, creating experiences that reflect the best of Japan through its spaces and diverse programs.
Location: 6801 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90028