ArtLab @ The Lowe
Adapting and Adopting:
Waves of Change as East Encounters West
Modern and Contemporary Japanese Art
May 4, 2012 - April 21, 2013

Adapting and Adopting: Waves of Change as East Encounters West, Modern and Contemporary Japanese Art was curated by museum studies students in ARH 511, supervised by Brian A. Dursum, Director and Chief Curator at the Lowe Art Museum and Lecturer in the Department of Art and Art History. It is the fourth installment in the series, ArtLab @ The Lowe, which provides hands-on museum experience to University of Miami students, who curate an exhibition from the conceptual state to the final installation. The thirty-two works of art selected by the student curators are entirely drawn from the Lowe's permanent collection and provide the opportunity to see this body of work, much of which has never been exhibited before, in entirely new context. The exhibition series is generously underwritten by UM Alumnus Stella M. Holmes, president of Overseas Partners Realty.


The islands that form the archipelago that is modern Japan initially experienced waves of invaders from the Asian mainland. These Central Asian peoples helped to shape the early history, language, and art of Japan, but over subsequent centuries, natives of the islands developed their own identity and language distinct from that of East Asia. While separate, the Japanese were not isolated and influences from the more culturally and politically sophisticated Chinese found their way to the islands. In the seventh century, the Japanese more fully embraced Chinese culture through a series of reforms that indentified the Yamato Clan as the imperial house of Japan. Although their language developed separately, the Japanese adopted Chinese characters for writing as well as Confucian social organization and bureaucratic structures. Buddhism was also introduced via China and Korea, and was adopted, along with the native Shinto beliefs, as a major religious system. These waves of influence that found their way to Japan over the centuries were consciously adopted by the native peoples and equally adapted to fit their needs.

This integration of foreign influence and its contribution to the development of modern and contemporary Japanese art is the underlying theme of Adapting and Adopting: Waves of Change as East Encounters West. The exhibition examines three broad topics in modern and contemporary Japanese art: Japanese artists living abroad, cross-cultural influences returning to Japan, and the role of traditional Japanese art. While it is clear that the Japanese would adopt artistic ideals as it suited them - first from China and Korea and by the seventeenth century from Europe and the Americas - traditional artistic forms were rooted strongly enough in the Japanese psyche to withstand complete transformation. During the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the Meiji government (1868-1912) openly encouraged young Japanese to study abroad in an effort to strengthen the motherland and reverse what the Japanese viewed as unequal status vis-à-vis Europe and the Americas. Artists, many of whom had been interested in Western artistic ideas, moved abroad and settled in Europe, and North and South America, especially in Brazil. Yet another group of artists studied abroad and then returned home to form Western-style painting schools, or they joined Japanese painting academies that emphasized either the native Japanese style (Yamato-e) or the Western style (Yoga-e). In both cases the influence was not, by any means, one-sided, but rather a cross-cultural merging of ideas and influences.

Image Captions:

(top) Tikashi Fukushima, Brazil (born Japan), 1920-2001, Untitled [Abstract Composition], 1963, oil on panel, 15 1/2 x 33 1/4 in. (39.4 x 84.5 cm), Gift of Paul Griffith Garland, 92.0295

(bottom) Shigemasa Higashida, Japan, b. 1955, Lidded Vessel, not dated, pottery and glaze, 8 7/8 x 12 7/8 x 10 1/2 in. (22.5 x 32.7 x 26.7 cm), Gift of The Rubin - Ladd Foundation, 2009.41.4