Yuki Katsura- A FABLE

Exihition Outline

Yuki Katsura (1913-91), who in 1935 held a solo exhibit of collage works, was a pioneer among women artists. Her career of 60 years bridged the pre- and post-war periods. This exhibition, the first comprehensive survey of her work, will be held in her native Tokyo to commemorate the centennial of her birth.

Katsura's methodology of simultaneously pursuing tactile sensations in cork and fabric collages, detailed delineation in oils, and caricaturistic depiction caught the attention of Shuzo Takiguchi and Fujita Tsuguharu before the war as manifesting a highly distinctive approach to painting. Following the war, by applying her penetrating eye for society and people to allegorical depiction, she produced richly humorous works that encourage interpretations on multiple levels. Katsura continually fostered her own objectivity through travels and books, and her work is permeated throughout by multifaceted observation, cognizant of both the avant-garde and the everyday, critical analysis and laughter, and Japanese folk elements and the universal perspectives of the modern West. By slightly manipulating our perspective--viewing a fable's main character from the standpoint of its supporting character, for example, or rotating her completed painting 90 degrees or enveloping her subject in a membrane-like wrapping--she moves us to look anew at all we had taken for granted.

This exhibition presents Yuki Katsura's artistic world--which commutes freely across the boundaries between human beings, creatures, and objects by means of allegorical depiction--through her foremost paintings and also numerous artworks and book covers and illustrations never before exhibited. It endeavors to show, from varying angles, the significance of her work as art fostered in a different context from the Western avant-garde. Katsura's art, which developed within the complete freedom of her thinking and attitudes, startles and awakens us to the joy of discovering the world around us from new perspectives.

Exhibition Information

Title: Yuki Katsura- A FABLE
Closed on: Mondays (except for April 29, May 6), April 30, May 7
Opening Hours: 10:00-18:00 (tickets available until 17:30)
Venue: Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (MOT)
Organized by: Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation for History and Culture, Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo/ THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN/ The Japan Association of Art Museums
Supported by: Lion Corporation, SHIMIZU CORPORATION, Dai Nippon Printing Co., Ltd., SOMPO JAPAN INSURANCE INC., Nippon Television Network Corporation
Admission: Adult: ¥1000 (¥800) / University & College Student, Over 65yrs old: ¥800 (¥640) /
High School & Junior High School Student: ¥600( ¥480) / Free for Elementary School & Under
Note: *( ) Price for a group, over 20 people
*Free entry to MOT permanent collection for ticket holders
Curated by: Naoko Seki
Assistants: Mihoko Nishikawa / Yasumitsu Takai
Intern: Yui Kato
Press: Kumiko Ohara
Also showing:: "Francis Al ÿs" PartⅠ:MEXICO SURVEY
"MOT Collection" Our Ninety Years: 1923-2013
Afterimages of Tomorrow

Exhibition Features

In Tokyo, Yuki Katsura's first comprehensive solo exhibition
From her first solo exhibit at age 21 to her exhibition of new works a half century later, Yuki Katsura continually commanded attention with her own distinctive art. Yet, she never obtained the opportunity to show her foremost works in one location in her native Tokyo. This time, viewers will see artworks from nearly every period of her career, both important works and works never before exhibited.

1 Early-period experimental works never before shown
Sketches of plants undertaken in her teens, lacquer paintings and collages produced in the 1930s, and hell scenes abounding with humor. through works never before publically displayed, the exhibition will trace back to pre-war Japan in order to understand how her three expressive methods. detailed delineation, collages that explore tactile sensations, and caricature works. originated and came to form.

2 The artist's engagement with society
In the 1940s and '50s, Katsura went outside to sketch Tokyo's townscapes and its people in daily life. In '54, when the Fukuryu Maru was contaminated by fallout from a nuclear test at Bikini Atoll, she produced Hito to Sakana (Man and Fish: Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art) and other important works addressing the realities of society. In this period, when Japan's publishing world resurged, she furthermore undertook allegorical depiction in oils for the covers and illustrations of children's books, such as Nonchan kumo ni noru ("Nonchan Rides on a Cloud"; author, Momoko Ishii) and Obaachan to kobuta ("The Old Woman and the Piglet"; author, Yaeko Nogami).

3 Long travels
From 1956 to '61, Katsura made long trips to Paris, Central Africa, and New York. Taking her sketchbook and camera in hand, she observed people's lives in many environments, compiling her experiences in an award-winning travel journal (Mainichi Publishing Culture Award). In New York, where Neo Dada seized her attention, she moved to a expansive studio and undertook in large scale the collages she given up during the war due to the difficulty of obtaining materials. The work Four Canvases, collected by an American art museum, will travel to Japan for the first time, for this exhibition.

4 Animal Fables
In the mid-sixties, Katsura won the grand prize of the Contemporary Art Exhibition of Japan for her large-scale collage, Gombe and Crows, which looks at a well-known fable from the supporting character's perspective. Katsura saw the crow, who frustrates Gombe's patient hard work, as a symbol of destructive innovation, and she felt angered by perceptions of it as a metaphor for wasted effort. Using bird beaks and tenugui cloth to richly humorous effect, she critically examines the fable. In parallel with such large-scale paintings, she also gave terrific energy to creating book covers and illustrations for the works of cultural critic Kiyoteru Hanada, the fiction of James Baldwin and Minako Oba, and for an autobiography of the social entrepreneur, Miki Sawada. At that time, she sought to deepen her understanding of the social conditions faced by black people and women. In this period when Katsura penned many notable essays, creatures in membrane-like wrappings, signifying various meanings, came to appear in her works,

5 Red Silk Implements
In 1985, Katsura exhibited installations of objects wrapped in the red silk lining of kimono. The objects--implements used by women in daily life: a high pillow, a cooking pot, a bag, etc.--are ordinary in themselves, yet on closer inspection appear to be sprouting horns. Katsura, by enveloping everyday objects in wrappings of fabric or paper, animates them and makes them squirm to life. In her late years, her artwork took a new turn towards "living with the incongruities of life." By taking things in hand and seeking to understand life's unsettling aspects concretely, through the mediation of physical objects, she perhaps sought to renew her relationship with the world around her.

Artist Profile

1913 Born in Sendagi-cho, Hongo. Studied Nihonga with Shuho Ikegami while at girls school. Upon graduating, learned anatomical drawing at the studios of Kenichi Nakamura and Saburosuke Okata.
1933 Attended the Avant-garde Research Group led by Seiji Togo and Tsuguharu Fujita.
1935 Held her first solo exhibit of collage works at Kindai Gallery.
1938 At the invitation of Tsuguharu Fujita, held an exhibit at Gallery Nichido. With Jiro Yoshihara, took part in forming the Ninth Room Association of the Nika-kai (Second Section Association).
1946 With Setsuko Migishi, took part in forming the Women Artists Association.
1947 Took part in forming the Japan Avant-garde Artists Club. At Taro Okamoto's invitation, attended the Yoru no Kai ("Night Society") and became acquainted with Kiyoteru Handa.
1950 Accepted as a member of the Nika Exhibition and served as a judge until 1956.
1956 Went to France and traveled Europe with Paris as a base. From spring 1958, traveled to Central Africa from Paris and stayed two months, then left for New York, where she lived for about three years.
1961 Returned to Japan. Exhibited Ihojin (Strange Foreigner) in the 6th International Art Exhibition, Japan and won the first prize. Held a solo exhibit at Tokyo Gallery.
Exhibited in the Carnegie International Exhibition. Left the Nika-kai.
1962 Compiled her experiences in America and Africa in Onna hitori genshiburaku ni hairu ("A Woman Alone Visiting a Primitive Village").
1964 Traveled to the Soviet Union with a delegation led by Kazuo Dan for the purpose of fishing. Thereafter, made fishing trips to various regions.
1966 Exhibited Gombe and Crows in the 7th Contemporary Art Exhibition of Japan and won the grand prize.
1970 At the invitation of Kanemon Asai, exhibited in the Shinju Association Exhibition until 1976.
1974 Published books of essays: Kitsune no Dairyoko ("The Fox's Journey"), Shin Kitsune no Dairyoko ("The New Fox's Journey"), Zoku Kitsune no Dairyoko ("The Fox's Journey--Sequel").
1985 Held an exhibition of all new works, "Momi no Katachi" ("Forms of Red Silk") at Ina Gallery.
1991 Died of heart failure. A touring exhibition prepared before her death was held at Shimonoseki City Art Museum.
  • Yuki Katsura, Untitiled, 1930, Photo / Paper, Collection of The World Chldren's museum of Okazaki

  • Yuki Katsura, Untitiled, 1985, red silk, cotton, Private Collection

  • Yuki Katsura, Resistance, 1952, oil on canvas, Collection of Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo

  • Yuki Katsura, Man and Fish, 1954, oil on canvas, Collection of Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art

  • Yuki Katsura, Work, 1938-39 , oil on canvas, Collection of Shimonoseki City Art Museum

  • Yuki Katsura, Sweet Potatoes, 1987, 0il on canvas, Private Collection

  • Yuki Katsura, Untitiled (detail), water color and pencil on paper, Private Collection

  • Photo by MINORU HIRATA ©

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