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Jacoulet print showing


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Kindai Hanga 近代版画 and Gendai Hanga 現代版画
Modern and Contemporary Japanese Prints


hamanishi"Modern" and "contemporary" Japanese prints (kindai hanga 近代版画 or gendai hanga 現代版画) are characterized by a variety of styles and media. The sôsaku hanga movement helped set the stage for modern Japanese printmaking, and some sôsaku hanga artists continued to produce works long after the pioneering "creative" printmakers had passed away or lost their short-lived cohesive identity (it was a grouping that was always in flux, given the adventurous nature and independent spirit of its members). Some artists seem to fit within both the sôsaku hanga tradition and the modern or contemporary movement.

Without attempting to offer a rigorously fashioned definition of "modern" versus "contemporary" Japanese prints, it would be useful to suggest that prints made during the last three to four decades of the twentieth century may be considered "modern" (works made after the heyday of sôsaku hanga), whereas the term "contemporary" would refer to prints made roughly in the last two decades. As time goes on, these flexible demarcations will shift and definitions will change.

One characteristic of modern and contemporary Japanese printmaking is the adoption of techniques and media from the West. Although cutting designs into woodblocks remained viable and popular among many of these artists, a wide range of international trends in art exerted profound influence and made any technique or media fair game. Common among these are etchings, mezzotints, lithographs, and silkscreens. Artists also employed mixed media, rarely used in ukiyo-e and shin hanga, but more familiar in sôsaku hanga. Overall, subjects and styles seem to be without limit in modern and contemporary Japanese printmaking. © 2021 by John Fiorillo

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