Tokyo National Museum pieces call CMA home during special exhibit

Maria Fazal, Staff Reporter

The Cleveland Museum of Art has taken a big step forward in terms of cultural exchange with its new exhibition of modern Japanese art entitled “Remaking Tradition: Modern Art of Japan from the Tokyo National Museum.”

This temporary exhibition, which is on view from Feb. 16 to May 11, incorporates pieces solely from the Tokyo National Museum. These varied artworks include paintings, sculptures, tapestries, ceramics and calligraphy pieces.

Furthermore, the Tokyo National Museum is currently displaying pieces from the CMA’s Japanese, Chinese, Korean and European galleries in an exhibition dubbed “Admired from Afar: Masterworks of Japanese Painting from the Cleveland Museum of Art.” The pieces will travel to the Kyushu National Museum later this year.

CMA interim director Fred Bidwell proclaims, “Thanks to our long-term friendship and partnership with the Tokyo National Museum, it is our privilege to bring this important exhibition of art from a period in the cultural life of Japan to America.

“Audiences will be fascinated by how the currents of Japanese culture and style represented by our beloved collection of traditional art are reflected in the evolution of Japanese modern art in these objects of superb craftsmanship and artistry.”

The emphasis and interest taken in modern Japanese art is well warranted, especially considering its global nature. When Japan re-immersed itself with the rest of world in 1854, it was exposed to 200 years of culture.
Masters from this period of Japanese art were able to beautifully combine old techniques and styles from the pre-modern Edo period with artistic influences from the West. The result was a spectacular amalgam of global culture.

There are several pieces of interest in this new collection that display the continuity established during this modern period. One painting, “Portrait of Reiko,” displays a remarkably realistic young girl delicately clasping a green object.

Despite the demure girl’s relatively simple clothing, the piece is reminiscent of earlier European portraits depicting elaborately clad monarchs. Unsurprisingly, artist Kishida Ryūsei was heavily influenced by northern Renaissance art and put a strikingly oriental twist on it with this masterpiece.

Another particularly impressive piece is Yokoyama Taikan’s “Mount Fuji Rising Above the Clouds,” which is comprised of two massive six-fold screens, each measuring over 13 feet tall and six feet wide. Taikan was heavily concerned with portraying elements invisible to the human eye, such as wind, space, sound and feelings.

In fact, he was once quoted as saying, “There are very few paintings of Mount Fuji that could be called masterpieces, because most of them only convey the mountain’s shape. Even a child can draw its shape.

“To really draw it, one must draw one’s own heart that is reflected in Fuji. And by ‘heart,’ I simply mean one’s own personality. It could also be called dignity, or spirit.” His relatively simple but emotionally infused piece certainly seems to capture the elements that produce a masterpiece.

Other pieces of interest in the collection include a spectacular impressionist painting titled “Maiko Girl,” a glistening “Footed Bowl with Applied Crabs and Brown Glaze” and “Poems from the Man’yōshū Poetry Anthology.”

Several light-sensitive objects, including “Mount Fuji Rising Above the Clouds,” will rotate. The first rotation is through March 30. The exhibition will re-open to the public on April 3. Tickets are $20 and include re-entry to the second rotation. The tickets also allow access to “Van Gogh Repetitions.”