November 4, 2012

Exhibit explores Edo period supernatural prints

From staff reports

BRUNSWICK — An exhibition exploring themes of the supernatural and otherworldly creatures in woodblock prints of the late Edo period (1600--1868) will open Friday at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art.

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“The Ghost of Asakura Togo,” by Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Japanese (1798–1861).

Images courtesy of Bowdoin College Museum of Art

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“Kiyomori’s Fever Dream” by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, Japanese (1839–1892).

The exhibition includes 40 woodblock prints from the private collection of Cornell University faculty member Dan McKee. A selection of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art's collection of small ivory carvings that depict demons and animals also will be displayed.

The exhibition, "Fantastic Stories: The Supernatural in Nineteenth-Century Japanese Prints," coincides with the 25th anniversary of Asian Studies at Bowdoin. It is on view through March 3.

Supernatural themes have been fixtures in folktales and legends from Japanese literary and religious traditions for more than a millennium, said museum staff member Sarah J. Montross.

The 19th-century artists featured in this exhibition mined these histories in their development of printmaking techniques that engaged a broader and increasingly secularized public.

Among the highlights are several prints that represent scenes from Yotsuya Kaidan, the classic ghost tale of a betrayed wife who after death seeks revenge on her deceitful husband.

"Fantastic Stories" also will include clips from classic Japanese ghost films of the 1960s to demonstrate how such frightening narratives have evolved during the 20th century.

To mark the opening of the exhibition, McKee will deliver a lecture, "From Abject Horror to Witty Play: The Oscillating Modes of the Supernatural in Nineteenth-Century Japan" at 4:30 p.m. Nov. 15 in the Beam Classroom at the Visual Arts Center.

The museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, with extended hours to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, and from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free.

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