The idea was to invite the most prominent artists of the late 20th century to capture a single moment in the present.
The theme—100 views of Tokyo— was a subject that harks back to the great landscape print series of the 19th century by Utagawa Hiroshige and Katsushika Hokusai. The goal? To create a definitive statement, a message, for the future.
Created between 1989 and 1999, most of the prints in this series—conceived by members of the Japan Print Association—depict actual locations in the city such as the Shinjuku area, Tokyo Tower, Haneda airport, and sites such as Tokyo Bay, though a large number of works show completely imaginary places or abstract imagery. The array of methods used reads like an encyclopedia of printing techniques and includes woodblock printing, lithograph, mezzotint, and photo etching. Not only did this project celebrate the long careers of accomplished artists, it launched the careers of others.
This exhibition celebrates the recent acquisition of a complete set of prints in the series and features over 30 works, including Tokyo Rhapsody (above) by Toneyama Kojin (1921–1994), an artist fascinated by the arts of Mexico and Japanese folk arts. In this lithograph, a human figure rides a large wasp over Tokyo, whose buildings and monuments appear jumbled, as if reconfigured into a distorted collage. Is this part of the message to the future? Or is it meant more for the present?