Nature / Supernature - Exhibit at Japan House LA

Nature / Supernature - Exhibit at Japan House LA

My first gallery trip AC (After Covid) was to an exhibit called "Nature / Supernature" at the Japan House in Los Angeles. Japan House is located in Hollywood, right near the famous Chinese Theatre. 

"Japan House Los Angeles serves as a base platform both for promoting Japanese culture and for developing human resources through US-Japan exchange. "

Japan House is clean and bright, with an appropriate minimalist aesthetic. It's a quiet, cultural oasis compared to the craziness going on the Hollywood streets outside.

The exhibition had over sixty prints on loan from the Scripps College collection. The featured artists included Hokusai, Hiroshige, Kunisada, Kuniyoshi, Yoshitoshi, Chikanobu, Kyōsai, and others. The exhibit provided ukiyo-e examples of the Japanese connection with nature and their fascination with the supernatural. 

For those new to the medium of woodblock printing, the entrance to the gallery had a great display of the tools and process. 

woodblock printing process
Examples of the printing process using a Hiroshige print - this print required 16 woodblocks.
Woodblock inks.
Pigments used to create the woodblock inks.

The exhibit began with prints that depicted the beauty of Japan's natural environment. Hiroshige, and Hokusai's prints were the primary focus here. 

Hokusai woodblock prints Hiroshige Nature prints Hiroshige Nature prints Japan House LA


In between groups of prints were some gorgeous triptychs by Chikanobu (below), these acted like a visual palette cleanser. 

chikanobu ukiyo-e print

Before too long, the exhibit transitioned to supernatural themes. Kuniyoshi, Yoshitoshi, Kyosai, and Kunisada prints were the focus of "supernature". Chikanobu also had one of his best designs of the ruthless Taira no Kiyomori seeing the skulls of the enemies that he had had killed in a snowy garden.

chikanobu and yoshitoshi
Kunisada cat demon
Nekomata Bridge (1864) by Utagawa Kunisada.
Kunisada spider demon
Kuniyoshi - Minamoto no Yorimitsu, bedridden with malaria, is attacked by a mysterious, shrouded figure. 

My photos certainly don't do the exhibit justice, you can get a much better look by accessing their virtual tour here. Even better, you can make the trip and see the exhibit in-person before it closes at the end of May 2021. I also suggest getting on Japan House's mailing list so you can stay informed about all their events. Special thanks to my friend Seiko K. who, unbeknownst to me, was working there and gave me a friendly and informative tour.

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