December 7, 2015/ 12:30 PM - 2:00 PM

UCLA Bunche Hall Room 6275

The Uncarved Block

Reticence in the use of materials in postwar Japanese art

Colloquium with Bert Winther-Tamaki, UCI

Photo: Bert Winther-Tamaki, 2015. 

Presenting inherent qualities of materials as is has often been regarded as a hallmark of Japanese art and design.  For example, Japan is associated with art that “brings to life” (ikasu) the beauty of unpainted wood grain, in contrast to carved, painted, and gilded woodcraft traditions of Europe.  The “uncarved block,” an important symbol in Daoist discourse, is among the Asian cultural associations of an aesthetic of reticence.  This aesthetic links such divergent postwar trends as Sōsaku Hanga, a movement of printmaking that often featured wood grain-printing, and Monoha, an avant-garde group that exhibited blocks of wood and other “things” (mono) “as is” (arugamama).  Recent developments in ecology theory and New Materialism suggest a framework for re-evaluating this aesthetic of reticence in search of resources for new ethical approaches to the challenges of the Anthropocene age.

Bert Winther-Tamaki is Professor of Art History and Visual Studies at the University of California, Irvine; Scholar in Residence at the Getty Research Institute, 2015-2016; and Professor of the Getty Consortium Seminar on Material Practices of Art and Design, Winter 2016.  He is author of Maximum Embodiment: Yōga, the “Western Painting” of Japan, 1912-1955 (Univ. of Hawai’i Press, 2012); Isamu Noguchi and Modern Japanese Ceramics (co-author with Louise Cort, Univ. of California Press, 2003); and Art in the Encounter of Nations: Japanese and American Artists in the Early Postwar Years (Univ. of Hawai’i Press, 2001).

Free & open to the public!


Sponsor(s): Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies