Japanese culture and art deco seem like contradictory elements. When discussing ’20s and ’30s Japan, words such as conservative, traditional and militaristic might spring to mind.
But the “Deco Japan: Shaping Art and Culture, 1920-1945” exhibit, currently at The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, speaks to a merging of modern Western ideas of that time with ancient Japanese tradition and plays on the tensions of those two concepts. It is more than pleasing to the eyes; it’s a fascinating look into culture and society.
The same bold, clean lines, vibrant colors and dynamic designs found in American art deco are present in this exhibit. Traditional Japanese imagery, lore and society are reflected with a deco feel in everything from clothing, postcards, dishes and furniture to combs, songbooks and smoking sets.
The jazz culture of short hemlines, rouge lips and bobbed hair that was hip in America translated to Japan. One of the most striking recurring themes of the exhibit was the depiction of Japanese women transformed into independent, drinking-and-smoking flapper types.
The murmur at the members-only opening Thursday, July 12 was that the exhibit is surprising and different. The opening attracted more than 400 people to see the 200-plus works provided on loan by the Levenson Collection to The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art.
IF YOU GO
Deco Japan: Shaping Art and Culture, 1920 to 1945
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily with extended hours to 8 p.m. Thursdays. Runs through Oct. 28
Where: John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, 5401 Bay Shore Road
For more information: Visit ringling.org or call 359-5700
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