Art April 30, 2010 By Rachel A Maggart

Visually the exhibition is exciting and suspenseful. Kuniyoshi’s triptychs burst with dramatic content and convey the theatricality of samurai culture. Take the famous Minamoto no Raiko and His Retainers Battle with the Earth Spider, for example. What’s your favorite Kuniyoshi print and why?

One of my favorite pieces is Teruuji at an Abandoned Temple (1849-51). The peeling shōji (screens) express the egotistical side of people and pull together the impact of the composition as a whole. His brilliance shines in one expressive method.
Kuniyoshi’s work possesses some sort of mysterious power that keeps people from ever becoming bored…it’s as though he casts a spell on you…

The Tenpo Reforms of 1842 (meant to impose Confucian ideals) forced Kuniyoshi to confront regulations controlling pigment, price, and erotica. Though these setbacks only led the artist to evade the referendums and push the envelope in remarkable ways. What are your biggest obstacles in pursuing your craft, and how do you overcome them?

I’m always nervous about meetings conducted in English and creating manga in front of a large audience. As part of my residency, I conduct manga workshops. Communicating my self-taught manga techniques in English, which is not my native language, is a tremendous mental challenge. But I put much effort into the workshops because the rewards are so great. Sometimes I will come up with new methods that I hadn’t thought up before. I feel that there are actually more occasions where I am the one learning from the students.
For this project, I didn’t struggle to come up with the manga idea. I had already envisioned a remix of New York and Kuniyoshi’s work. Since street culture is especially strong in New York, I think pushing that aspect in creating the manga will lead to an interesting piece. 
     Right now, I definitely feel that Japanese manga culture is permeating American youth at an incredible speed. The skill level of the kids who come to the workshops is remarkably higher compared to previous years. The comic business in the US will definitely change and grow during the next five or ten years.

As an ukiyo-e artist, producing “pictures of the floating world of leisure and luxury” yet subjected to crackdowns on “conspicuous displays of wealth”, Kuniyoshi had to cleverly circumvent reforms. Now we can all bear witness to his illustriousness and virtuosity despite adversity. Who is most inspiring to you in the tradition of Japanese illustrators?

An inspirational artist who has had a transforming effect on me is Japanese mangaka Moyoco Anno. Her work changed my preconceived notions about manga — the unprecedented fast pace in her story’s developments and the newness of her style. She also incorporates many elements of fashion and underground culture. Because I was a skater, and a part of the gay culture, I received tremendous inspiration from the underground culture of the ’90s.

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