UNH Art Gallery


By Lori Gula
UNH News Bureau

January 3, 2003

Ukiyo-e: Japanese Woodblock Prints from the Collection
Jan. 23 to April 16, 2003

The Japanese word ukiyo refers to the aspects of daily life of common people and e means "a picture." Combined, the two words are used in reference to a long Japanese tradition of depicting everyday life in beautifully colored woodblock prints. This exhibition showcases prints of the 19th century merchant class in Japan. Each print conveys a story using pattern, line, and color.

The stories told are of tea ceremonies, kabuki actors, beautiful courtesans, military battles, and scenes from the book, The Tale of Genji, written in the 11th century by Lady Murasaki, a member of the Emperor's court. The Tale of Genji is the story of a prince who is on a lifelong journey to discover and capture love. It is an epic story tracing one man's path as it intertwines with the lives of many others. Considered to be among the greatest works of Japanese literature, the book stands with the great literary masterpieces of the world. Scenes from The Tale of Genji were often depicted in Japanese woodblock prints; several are included in this exhibition.

The first ukiyo-e images were not prints, but rather paintings made with sumi or black ink. Eventually, the artists felt the need to find a way for these images to be mass-produced, and the introduction of books with woodblock-printed illustrations answered this need. The book illustrations evolved into single prints that could be distributed easily and inexpensively. Color was added and the images became more complex. Through subsequent generations, the color woodblock prints developed into increasingly refined, elegant, and colorful designs. Ukiyo-e prints reached increasingly wider audiences and became extremely popular. Their influence even spread to the West, inspiring and redirecting the works of Impressionist artists such as Claude Monet, James Whistler, and Mary Cassatt.

"Japanese woodblock prints are easily recognized by their unique visual traitsăsinuous lines, decorative patterns, rich color, and fine craftsmanship. Produced for the general public from the late 17th century and into the 20th century, these prints are generally known as ukiyo-e, or 'pictures of the floating world.' Rather than reflecting aspects of religious or spiritual life, these prints were meant to illustrate the here and now -- beautiful images of landscapes, actors, courtesans, wrestlers, birds, and animals that represent the more transient, fleeting nature of everyday life," says Vicki Wright, exhibition curator and gallery director.

"Today, ukiyo-e prints are among the most revered and sought after works of Japanese art, and The Art Gallery is extremely fortunate to have within our collection almost 200 Japanese woodblock prints that were purchased in the 1970s. The prints are used for study and research by university students, and this exhibition continues our tradition of sharing a portion of our collection with the public each year," Wright says.

An Eye on Alumni: Six Sculptors
Jan. 23 to March 13, 2003

A university's merit lies, in part, on the success of its alumni. The Department of Art and Art History at the University of New Hampshire has trained countless alumni artists who have gone on to make a lasting imprint on the art world. An Eye on Alumni is an exhibition focusing on the unique talents of six alumni sculptors who, each in their own way, have mastered their craft. The exhibition brings these sculptors back to their artistic roots while celebrating the success they have achieved in their careers.

Gary Ambrose (B.F.A., 1974) is a sculptor whose strong connection with the natural world carries over in his work. He is an observer who discerns what it is in nature that compels him. "My creative process begins with hiking and climbing in the western mountains of Maine and sailing to coastal islands. I seek to be in motion in the vocabulary of landscape. It is then a question of choice making, or which form is significant," he says. Ambrose works with tree branches and stones, shaping and refining them into graceful and elegant, yet organic, versions of themselves. The branches silently reach out, stretching sinuously in clean and simple lines. Sometimes vivid blue or pink startles the eye as it camouflages the underlying grain of the wood. In their simplicity, Ambrose's pieces create a perfect foil for the undeniable complexity of this world.

In contrast is Bill Brayton (B.F.A., 1980), whose sculptural pieces are born of materials more industrial in nature -- steel, concrete, enamel, and wood. His synthetic materials contrast with the organic personality he achieves in his work. Recently the artist has included drawing and digital animation into his work. "The relationships between form, line, and space found through the act of drawing have set the stage for subsequent investigations in sculpture and digital animation," he says. "For the past six years I have limited my work in these media to a syntax of 21 organic and geometric forms. The evolution of these objects and the dialogue between them has become the subject of my work."

Arthur Ganson (B.F.A., 1978) produces works that simply cannot be appreciated from a verbal description. The artist's almost childlike curiosity about the world and delight in life are reflected in his playful and ingenious kinetic sculptures. Ganson, who never studied engineering, designs by intuition. "Had I studied engineering, I may not have had the freedom to design such impractical machines," Ganson says. His "machines" capture motion as art.

They represent a gesture, a simple movement that gives the work life and a distinct personality.

Brenda Garand (B.F.A., 1981) is a sculptor whose talent lies in her unique ability to suggest ephemeral frailty and unwavering strength in the same work of art. Her pieces are made from a combination of steel and fabric. The lines are clean and distinct, yet graceful and soft. "The work uses specific objects and abstract form as references to the physical and psychological aspects of the individual. Ideas of aggression and protection, what is hidden and revealed, frailty and strength are conveyed through linear and planar elements made out of wire, fabric, steel, and roofing paper. The work reflects upon the past and present and of lives that are hard, full, and moving," Garand says.

Christopher Gowell (B.F.A., 1974) is an artist who continually improves her technical skill while developing themes and symbolism to imbue her work with personal meaning. Gowell is a classically trained figure sculptor whose pieces draw on medieval, classical, and baroque traditions. "My personal artistic quest is to become the best figure sculptor in terms of technical expertise and anatomical knowledge, and to imbue my work with mystery, passion, and magic. As a symbolist, I desire the exterior form to convey something more than the intrinsic beauty of the sculpted nudeăperhaps creating a psychological and archetypal imagery," she says. Gowell works in clay and wax, and then casts the pieces in plaster, cement, resin, bronze, iron, or silver. She also carves directly into soapstone and marble.

Gary Haven Smith (B.F.A., 1973) is best known for his carved stone sculptures, but in recent years has begun to produce sculptural mixed-media paintings. Smith's works have a quiet, yet powerful presence; they exude a certain wisdom gathered from an extensive history of simply existing in this world. Recently, Smith received the first Artist Advancement Grant from the Greater Piscataqua Community Foundation. The $30,000 grant will provide the funds for Smith to work exclusively on his art without the typical financial worries that many artists face. "I try to make things that are very disparate work together. It's very much the way I feel life is. The bottom line is the art needs to communicate something, maybe just a little bit, to make someone look at things a little differently, to pause, to wonder," he says.

A preview reception for both exhibits will be held Wednesday, Jan. 22, from 5 to 7 p.m.

ArtBreak Series
The following programs are part of the ArtBreak Series, which runs Wednesdays, noon to 1 p.m. in The Art Gallery, unless otherwise noted:

  • Jan. 29: Slide Lecture, "Behind the Scenes: An Introduction to the Life and Culture of 19th Century Japan," by Janabeth Reitter, Japanese Program, instructor of languages, literatures, and cultures. Room A219.
  • Feb. 5: Slide Lecture by exhibiting artist Christopher Gowell. Room A219.
  • Feb. 12: Slide Lecture by exhibiting artist Gary Haven Smith. Room A219.
  • Feb. 19: Video: The Tale of Genji, from the book written by Lady Murasaki in the 11th century. This video was produced by the Films for the Humanities & Sciences.
  • Feb. 26: Performance: Scenes from The Increased Difficulty of Concentration by Vaclav Havel, performed by Mask & Dagger.
  • March 5: Gallery Talk by Vicki Wright, director of The Art Gallery and curator of Ukiyo-e: Japanese Woodblock Prints from the Collection.
  • March 12: Concert: "Turning Up Stones: A Retrospective," performed by David Ripley, professor of music. Accompanied by the UNH Chamber Singers and John Hunter on bass.

The UNH Art Gallery is at the Paul Creative Arts Center, 30 College Road, Durham. Hours are Monday through Wednesday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday, 1-5 p.m. The Art Gallery is closed Fridays, university holidays, and during exhibition changes, including March 14-23. Admission is free. School and other groups are welcome. Tours are free with advance reservation. Call 862-3713 to schedule.

News Editors: Color slides are available from Amanda Tappan, education and publicity coordinator, The Art Gallery, at 862-3712 or art.gallery@unh.edu. The following photos are available to download:

Kunisada and Hiroshige. "Kabuki Actor"
woodblock print, 14 1/8 x 9 3/4 in.

Harunobu. "Courtesan", c. 1770
woodblock print, 8 1/2 x 6 in.

Christopher Gowell, Our Lady of the Plants, 2002. Copper-faced Forton mg.

Brenda Garand, Marsouin, 2000. Steel and fabric, 26" x 62" x 58".

William Brayton, s1222000, 2000. Steel, concrete, and enamel.

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