Saturday, April 4, 2015

Hokusai at the MFA

Yesterday I got to see a preview of the Hokusai exhibit at the MFA in Boston.  Everyone pretty much knows "The Great Wave," as it is at least as iconic as the Mona Lisa, the Thinker and a handful of other pieces of art that are part of our collective knowledge and consciousness.

It is part of a series called "36 Views of Mount Fuji," an amazing collection of wood cuts that have Mount Fuji visible from different perspectives and sizes. Like most amazing art, it is overwhelming and needs to viewed multiple times over a period of time.  I know I will go back and spend a lot of time just sitting in the middle of the prints thinking about them.

But one particular print caught my eye:

 I listened as a father explained to his son about the use of color and how it had to be printed in layers.  They listened to audio tour bits, talked about where Mount Fuji was in this print versus a different print where it was barely visible.

Leaning over I said, "You should show him the original Tolkien drawings from The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings."

He excitedly reminded his son that they had looked at those a couple of weeks ago when they were reading The Hobbit and his son, who was maybe 8 or 9 years old nodded his head and said, "Oh yeah, I remember."

It was an exciting moment for me as well to realize exactly how much Hokusai quietly reached into our lives.

So many of his prints influenced the Art Nouveau artists, like Mucha and Beardsley.  some of his demons and ghosts, a common subject in Japan but one we don't normally think of when thinking on Japanese art, can be seen in modern horror drawings, effects and designs.

Even more amazing to me was learning many of his original drawings were lost in the process of making the wood blocks that produced the prints.  Like nature, his drawings were temporary and timeless at the same time.

I plan to revisit the exhibit at least a few more times before it closes in August.  I want to spend some time just soaking in the Mount Fuji and the waterfall series.  One of the waterfalls wants to tell me a story and I know I need to sit and listen quietly as it tells me.

One thing I need to do is find out the MFA's restrictions on thing like a folding stool and such.  I see people there with easels and sketch books and such.  So I want to make sure I don't run afoul of things as I sit there with my blank book and write.

Speaking of short exhibits - the time capsule from the State House is there as well.  It was pretty cool to see the stuff that has been tucked away for hundreds of years.  It's only there for a couple of more weeks (until 4/22), so definitely check it out if you can.  No telling how much longer it will be until you can see it again.

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