Ackland Art Museum: Elegance and Extravagance

Elegance and Extravagence 

7 September 2012 - 6 January 2013


This ambitious exhibition presents 86 important Japanese posters from the mid-1950s to the 1990s, borrowed from a distinguished private collection. Featuring rarely seen examples alongside acknowledged classics, it prompts a new look at the exuberance and inventiveness of highly influential poster designers of the postwar decades.

Although Japanese posters have been included as elements in larger design exhibitions in the United States, they have only occasionally been the focus of attention in their own right. Seen together, posters from these decades illustrate the substantial cultural and economic transformations that took place in Japan – from the country’s ascension as an economic world power to the radical shifts occurring in performing arts, including the rise of Japanese avant-garde theatre.

From the psychedelic, Pop-influenced posters of Tadanori Yokoo, to the crisp, bold simplicity of works by Ikkō Tanaka, to the witty and compelling designs of Shigeo Fukuda, Elegance and Extravagance provides the rare opportunity to experience first-hand the power, sophistication, and variety of Japanese posters from this era in their original form.

Other major names to be represented include Kiyoshi Awazu, Hiromu Hara, Takenobu Igirashi, Yūsaku Kamekura, Kazumasa Nagai, Koichi Sato, and Keiichi Tanaami. The selection will showcase several generations of creativity and achievement, enabling visitors to experience how increasing technical, material, and aesthetic sophistication led to Japan’s position as one of the world’s leading graphic design cultures.

An adjacent gallery will continuously screen pioneering animated short films from the 1960s and 1970s by designers Tadanori Yokoo and Keiichi Tanaami.

Elegance and Extravagance is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with introduction, commentary, detailed checklist, and artists’ biographies by Ackland Art Museum Chief Curator Peter Nisbet.

All images from the Merrill C. Berman Collection. 

Top: Ikkō Tanaka, Japanese, 1930–2002: The 5th Sankei Kanze Noh, 1958; color screen print. © Estate of Ikkō Tanaka.