fireworks
Fireworks at Stone Arch Bridge

Way better than a movie: the Edo Pop exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

Faced with a few spare weekday afternoon hours, I filled nearly two of them with a visit to this show, earlier this week. My favorite item was Utagawa Hiroshige’s Fireworks at Ryōgoku – check out a sharper digital copy here, with a handy magnifying feature. There’s a great audio clip about it here. At the time I considered the rendering of the fireworks of it to be clever and very skillfully done, but now that I compare it to my photo from a recent fireworks display in Minneapolis (at right), it seems very realistic. However, what appealed to me more about the print was the fine detail in the wood block carving, as well as the story behind it: those fireworks were done as a memorial event for citizens who had died in a cholera epidemic. This print, and so much in the the show is such a celebration of life, that I couldn’t help but leave the museum with a smile and to not be bothered so much by the insane rush-hour traffic that I had to handle shortly thereafter.

Other favorites were Katsushika Hokusai’s Hodogaya on the Tokyo Road, Kesai Eisen’s No. 20: View of Hiratsukahara in Rain near Kutsukake Station, and Emily Allchurch’s Tokyo story – the installation pieces can be seen here, but the experience at the MIA was far superior, largely as the images are backlit and fairly large. The latter was the last part of the show I saw, with other pieces of more modern art that has been influenced by the Edo period prints. What struck me was how much the Allchurch work, any many of the older prints, made me feel like I was immersed in one of the visually rich online games (namely World of Warcraft, but now also Skyrim) that my husband enjoys playing. The super-saturated colors, the extreme range of scale in the scenery, and the deliberate clear imagery on every plane, are strong similarities I see between the classic works and today’s “pop” gaming scenery. I’m sure that’s intentional, or at least, the resulting effect is.

Great show. I’d like to go back – two hours for it weren’t enough, and there’s a great audio tour that I did not use, during my visit, partly due to near-dead phone battery.

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