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U.Va. Art Museum Exhibits Japanese Woodblock Prints

June 6, 2002--

WHAT: Exhibit: "Letters, Poems and All-Purpose Paper in 19th-Century Japanese Prints

WHEN: Summer through mid-fall

WHERE: University of Virginia Art Museum

The Japanese have been among the most literate of societies for centuries. Aristocrats and commoners alike have taken pride in calligraphy and their knowledge of literature, especially poetry. A special exhibition, "Letters, Poems and All-Purpose Paper in 19th-Century Japanese Prints," at the University of Virginia Art Museum this summer, emphasizes the importance the Japanese place on the art of communicating by means of letters and poems as well as the ritual use of paper for such purposes.

"In fiction, on stage, in art and in life," said Stephen Margulies, curator of works on paper and organizer of the exhibition, "poems and poetic letters written in a beautiful hand were sent to lovers, friends and others as a kind of ritualized, dramatized, elusive yet constant communication, turning art into life and life into art. Even in the entertainment district of Edo [now Tokyo], high-ranking courtesans played at being aristocratic poets."

Many prints in the exhibit portray famous courtesans or scenes from Kabuki plays. The all-purpose wads or packets of paper held by courtesans or tucked into the obi of women in these prints are theatrically ambiguous and suggestive, since they may be communications regarding either the physical or literary side of love. It is a world of paper love, or at least paper messages. The one exception is the portrait of the great aristocratic lover and poet Narihira, who tore off a piece of his robe so he could write a quick love letter.

In these pictures, "pattern overlays pattern, color overlays color, yet Buddhist emptiness comes through in unlinked passages," said Margulies. "Some of the images come close to being first-rate fashion advertising, like the photographs in Vanity Fair. But here, art, poetry, writing -- and love -- are one."

Included in the exhibit are works by major artists such as Shikimaro, Eizan, Kunisada, Kuniyoshi and Yoshitoshi, who has been described as the van Gogh of Japan.

The University of Virginia Art Museum is open to the public without charge Tuesday through Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Limited parking is available for visitors behind the museum.

For more information about the exhibition or the University of Virginia Art Museum, call (434) 924-3592 or visit the museum Web site at www.virginia.edu/artmuseum.

Contact: Jane Ford, (434) 924-4298

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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Last Modified: Thursday, 06-Jun-2002 11:03:19 EDT
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