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Friday, June 19, 2009

A local artist with global cred

Staff writer

If there's one thing that Japan's hundreds of regional public museums have in common, it's a dedication to promoting their local artists. If you happen to live in the area in question, such "local artist shows" can be a lot of fun. The shared experience of place provides a ready-made entree into the artworks on show. If you're from out of town, however, you find yourself reminded of that fact, constantly.

News photo
Garden at the Waterfront (2001) by Noriko Yanagisawa

Printer and mixed-media artist Noriko Yanagisawa's current exhibition at the Shizuoka Prefectural Museum of Art is part of the institution's "art in Shizuoka" series. In other words, it's a celebration of a local artist. Nevertheless, this show's appeal is not limited to those from the sprawling prefecture that occupies much of the land between Tokyo and Nagoya.

Having studied printmaking at Tokyo University of the Arts in the 1960s, Noriko Yanagisawa lived and worked in New York between 1971 and 1974, where she found herself in the midst of a revolution in printmaking. Since the 1960s, print workshops such as Universal Limited Art Editions in New York and Kenneth Tyler's Gemini Graphic Editions Ltd. in Los Angeles had resurrected limited edition fine art printmaking. Painters such as Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Jim Dine, Cy Twombly, James Rosenquist and Barnett Newman were working with innovative printmakers to create prints of colors and complexity rarely seen before.

Yanagisawa worked at Robert Blackburn's workshop in New York City, where she acquired not only technical prowess but an ability to incorporate political positions in her work. Both skills are evident even in her latest work. That's not to say Yanagisawa's messages are overt; instead they are conveyed in downward-turned heads, ominously empty boats, stray dogs and detached angels' wings. Executed with mangalike line-sketches superimposed with transparent washes of bright color, the works possess an aesthetic that is less Shizuokan than it is characteristic of an artist combining the styles of two countries.

"Art in Shizuoka IX: Noriko Yanagisawa" is at Shizuoka Prefectural Museum of Art till July 5. www.spmoa.shizuoka.shizuoka.jp

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