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Tree to Mountain: Student curators install new Muscarelle exhibition

  • Curating an exhibition
    Curating an exhibition  Michael Le '15 talks about what he hopes visitors will take away from the exhibition next to Yoshida's 1979 print "Baobab and Rhino."  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Curating an exhibition
    Curating an exhibition  Japanese Woodblock Curation students Isabel Bush '15, Kyra Bell '17, and Mark Pate '15 (far right) work with Anne Lee Foster, Muscarelle assistant registrar (center), to label the woodblocks during installation.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Curating an exhibition
    Curating an exhibition  Japanese Woodblock Curation students Kyra Bell '17 and Michael Le '15 work with Japanese Studies Senior Lecturer Aiko Kitamura and History Professor Hiroshi Kitamura installing woodblock displays for the exhibition.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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William & Mary students helped curate a new exhibition opening at the Muscarelle Museum of Art Friday, which will showcase more than two dozen works from Japanese printmaking artist Tōshi Yoshida.

The exhibition, "Tree to Mountain: The Woodblock Prints of Tōshi Yoshida," will be on display from Oct. 16 - Feb. 8. Yoshida is a renowned Japanese artist who devoted much of his life to woodblock printing. His works have been featured at museums around the world, including New York’s Museum of Modern Art, Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, London’s British Museum, Australia’s National Museum and Japan’s National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo.

The idea for the exhibition came completely by chance. Associate Professor of History Hiroshi Kitamura and his family in Japan have lived near the son of Yoshida for many years. Upon hearing of W&M’s acquisition of one of his father's prints, which was donated by Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Libertson, Yoshida's son offered to help do a showcase of his father's work, featuring the print.

In conjunction with the museum, Kitamura and Assistant Professor of Art and Art History Xin Wu, along with students enrolled in the Japanese Woodblock Curation course, worked as guest curators of the exhibition.

"The main planning started last semester, in the spring," said Kitamura. "We decided to do this as a collaboration with students, so the core group of students and I started to meet last semester. We had a couple of meetings on how to frame the whole exhibit, what the argument would be, what the prints are that we will be using. Then we chose the prints, and what kind of displays we wanted to put together to display with the prints. All of these issues we started to talk about on a regular basis in the spring."

A lot of thought went into organizing the exhibition, Kitamura said.

"The good thing is that everyone who we contacted and worked with has been very supportive. The museum has been really excited for us and has been really hands-on in trying to guide us from beginning to end."

Students in this fall’s one-credit course had the ability to take the ideas they had developed the previous semester and see them come to fruition.

"I was expecting to get a little insight into how an art museum exhibit actually functions," said Mark Pate '15. "What kind of processes go into the decisions that are made and the logistics. I most certainly got a good feel for that by being in this class. I'm really impressed with the level of involvement each student was able to have."

The exhibition reflects the university’s and museum's effort to diversify the type of art displayed at the museum and work collaboratively with various entities on campus.

"We saw this as a collaborative opportunity to involve multiple disciplines around the college,” said Anne Lee Foster, assistant registrar at the Muscarelle Museum of Art. "Since we had a personal connection to the artist through Professor Kitamura, we found the project very fitting to our goal of further engaging the campus, by involving the Art & Art History Department and the Reves Center.”

When asked about the type of story she hopes the exhibition will tell, Wu noted that she hopes the public will be able to see how Yoshida blended traditional and contemporary styles within his art.

"I think one of the most important things is the modern vision," Wu said. "We typically know about the traditional view of Japan. While the important aspect of this exhibit is that, Yoshida worked on scenes all around the world, in the context of the 20th century.”

Many students in the course reiterated the sentiment of bringing awareness and a global appreciation for East Asian art as well.

"They're [the images are] presenting a very diverse image of Japan on one side, but on the other side are images of what a Japanese artist can do," Isabel Bush '15 said. "There's a contrast, but I think the diversity is really the goal of the exhibit. The artist really did a lot in his life, and did a lot of different things in art, and I really like that."

The professors also co-organized a semester-long lecture series, “Visual Cultures of East Asia,” which includes public talks on East Asian art, theater and cinema. Kendall Brown, California State University Long Beach professor and a specialist in modern Japanese prints, will deliver a lecture, “Tōshi Yoshida’s Worlds: Landscape, Family and Business,” on Nov. 14. A print workshop is also being discussed with Brian Kreydatus, associate professor of printmaking and life drawing.