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Volume 68, Isssue 106, Friday, February 28, 2003

Arts & Entertainment

Japanese photos at MFAH

By Uruj Perwaiz
The Daily Cougar

For the first time this semester, a truly exciting exhibit will come to Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The History of Japanese Photography will be on view and will reveal Japanis rich contributions to the art form.

The photography exhibit is the first of its kind to enter the United States; it will consist of a complete collection of photographs from the 19th century to the 20th century. 

The exhibition will be accompanied with a catalogue published for the first time in a Western language. Among the exhibitionis photographs, visitors will be able to see portraits of samurai and the Meiji Emperor, photographic scrolls with panoramas of major cities and possibly the most exciting will be pictures of battlefields from the Russo-Japanese war.

Quite relaxing are the utterly exquisite landscapes and still-life arrangements as well as numerous urban scenes. 

There is a section of the post-World War II era which includes the increasing global interaction during which the Japanese artists ventured into the contemporary expression of photography.

The photography in Japan is rich and varied in its history. More importantly, perhaps is that Japan has long been excluded from Western histories. Consequently, Japanese art has a unique format of its own.

The works in the exhibition will be divided into two-decade sections and arranged chronologically. The photographs are as small as 4 by 5 inches and as large as 4 by 5 feet. 

The exhibition will begin with the works from the pioneers in Japanese photography in 1854. The Japanese had quickly mastered photographic processes soon after beginning to study the daguerreotype. 

As elsewhere, the initial purpose of photography was to develop portraits. So, there are early photographs of the final moments of a warrior class and the dominating rise of Western culture, technology and influence, especially within the middle class.

From the late 1800s to the late 1900s Japan was engaged in three wars. The wars strongly affected the course of photography that was produced during this time. Also, during the war and soon after it ended many photographers began to capture elements of Japanese culture that the society valued. 

In the final section of the exhibit, visitors can gaze at the pieces produced in the 1960s and 1970s. Before the 1960s, international travel from Japan was difficult and highly limited, so for a 20-year period, photographs are at a minimum. 

However, during the 1960s and 1970s, Japanese photographers began to focus more on individualism and conceptualism, national and cultural identity, and of course environmental issues. 

There are amazing studio still life based on photographing fish fresh from the sushi market and there is a brilliant kaleidoscopic arena with uniformed "elevator girls" trapped in underground shopping arcades. 

This exhibit will be here right in time for Spring Break. So, if you feel the need to break away from the party scene, and want a little bit of intellectual stimulation check out this great new exhibit.

History of Japanese Photography 

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston March 2 through April 27, 2003. 
Send comments to dcshobiz@mail.uh.edu

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