Theater advertising becomes art

The Pierce College Art Gallery opened its doors with an Asian flair using paper lanterns, tatami mats and floor pillows to present hundred-year-old woodblock prints, from the Edo period of Japan, on March 20.

The Japanese Ukiyo-e (“pictures of the floating world”) were generously donated to the Pierce Foundation and are now part of Pierce’s permanent collection.

“The prints were found in boxes in a garage,” said Dennis Washburn, former director of the Foundation for Pierce College.

Washburn facilitated the exchange by appraising the work and filling out a charitable donation form.

Featured student co-curators Heather Bourse and Grace Culbertson installed the show with the help of Art Professor Monika Del Bosque.

“This is the first time the gallery has ever had student curators,” Del Bosque said. “The prints themselves span over 100 years of the Japanese woodblock printing tradition and I am incredibly excited to share them with the public.”

Culbertson and Bourse have been working on this project as an independent study under Del Bosque for the past three semesters.

The collection is seen as fine art, and examines the art form and beauty of the traditional woodblock printing process. It also tells the story of how prints functioned within Japanese society at the time they were made.

“The exhibit took me back to Japan, and perfectly reflected the precise patience, eloquent design and profound beauty which is found in the culture,” student Michelle Basche said.

Aside from the great masters each print became a collaboration of four experts: the artist who designed the prints, the engraver who carved the blocks, the printer who inked and pressed the woodblocks onto hand-made paper and the publisher, who financed, promoted and took care of distribution.

The art in its original form were posters advertising theater performances and brothels, or portraits of kabuki actors. With time, Ukiyo-e subject matter expanded to include famous romantic vistas and eventually, in the final years of the nineteenth century, dramatic historical events.

Being on display in the show enlivens the prints to become a vibrant reflection of yesterday’s Japan, and today’s life.

The Pierce College Art Gallery is located on Art Hill in room 3301.

The show will be open from March 20t to April 23, Mondays and Tuesdays 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Wednesdays and Thursdays 2 – 9 p.m.