Walsh Gallery

Funasaka / Hoshino / Kiritani / Shirasaki: Contemporary Japanese Art

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Dates: Feb 15 2002 - Apr 6 2002

Chicago, IL - Chicago hosts an extraordinary display of contemporary Japanese art this February. Walsh Gallery brings together four masters of contemporary Japanese art. The artists have between them some 160 years of experience as professional art makers. "Contemporary Japanese Art" explores the works of two celebrated printmakers Yoshisuke Funasaka and Michiko Hoshino, paintings by Itsuo Kiritani and pastels by Ryojun Shirasaki. These artists are visionaries who effortlessly seem to blend the old with the new. The exhibition opens at the Walsh Gallery on February 15, 2002 from 5 - 9 pm and runs through April 6.

Ms. Hoshino is one of the foremost lithographers in Japan. A retired professor from the printmaking department at Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music (Japan's most prominent art school), her work has been shown in Tokyo, New York, Buenos Aires, and Chicago. Ms. Hoshino's prints are part of the public collections of numerous museums including the California University of Fine Arts, the British Museum, and the Argentine National Print

For nearly two decades, Ms. Hoshino's subject matter has centered on the life and work of Argentinean writer Jorge Luis Borges. Issues like the passage of time, the transmission of human knowledge, and memory come strongly into play in Ms. Hoshino's work. Ms. Hoshino feels that working within black and white tonal ranges eliminates the distractions of color and helps to focus the viewer on the difficult conceptual tasks at hand.

Mr. Funasaka is one of the leading woodblock printers in Japan. He has a strong international reputation and has shown extensively around the world. Mr. Funasaka's work has been collected by several museums, including the British Museum, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Bibliotheque National Paris and the Tokyo National Museum of Modern Art.

Mr. Funasaka enjoys reducing images to their most basic components: lines, circles, dots and rectangles. The magic of Mr. Funasaka's prints lies in his ability to extract deep meaning from the simplest of images, as in his "Lemon" series. His abstracted and reduced forms of the lemon strike one as both sensual and animated. Mr. Funasaka explains, "When you first see a lemon, its shape is quite simple. But the more you look at it, the more complex its shape becomes."

Ryojun Shirasaki's abstractions in pastel are noted for their vibrant color fields and their scratched, contrasting lines. Yet this Otsu City artist is not your typical abstract painter. A former Zen Buddhist monk and social worker for abused children, Mr. Shirasaki says that in his art he tries to "render the invisible world visible." Mr. Shirasaki doesn't like to talk about his intent with regards to his paintings. His works, identified only by number and unencumbered by representational elements of any kind, demand interpretation. He wants each viewer to bring forth her associations and projections. Shirasaki's paintings challenge the viewer to rest in a moment of colorful reflection or be unnerved by his scratched surfaces. Mr. Shirasaki's paintings have appeared in prominent museums of Japan such as Tokyo Art Museum and Kyoto Art Museum. His paintings have been selected for numerous international art exhibitions seen in places like Seoul, New York and Chicago.

Tokyo artist Itsuo Kiritani brings a whole new dimension to the idea of portraiture. He calls his paintings and prints "portraits of modern cities." Whether it is Tokyo, New York, Vienna, or Chicago, Kiritani's portraits reflect the vitality of each city along with its darker undertones. Mr. Kiritani is fascinated by each ingredient in the urban melting pot and by the contrasts he finds in the world's great cities. In Mr. Kiritani's cityscapes, the viewer often feels he is looking at the city through a kaleidoscope. The perspective in these pieces is often intentionally distorted, sometimes just warped as if the canvas had shifted while he was painting. Somehow, Mr. Kiritani has melded the dinginess and anonymity of modern cities with the familiar and sweet taste of the melting pot. The result is quite remarkable.

Mr. Kiritani also has a body of work inspired by music. He goes to nightclubs and makes sketches of musicians, patrons and dancers. His "peoplescapes" pulse with the energy of urban life.

Mr. Kiritani has studied art at Waseda University in Tokyo, Academia der Bildenden Kunst in Munich, and the Boston Museum of Fine Art School. In Japan, Mr. Kiritani first became a celebrity because of his illustrations of traditional ways of life in the older quarters of Tokyo. His quirky portraits and cityscapes have received critical acclaim both in Japan and New York. "Contemporary Japanese Art" show will challenge people's preconceptions while providing an unencumbered view at the works of four extraordinary artists.