Melissa McCormick, MAR 12

Speaker: Professor Melissa McCormick (Professor of Japanese Art and Culture, Harvard University)

Calligraphy and Haptic Poetics in the Art of Ōtagaki Rengetsu”

Discussant: Professor Chelsea Foxwell (Associate Professor of Art History and the College, The University of Chicago)

Friday, March 12th, 2021

4:45 – 6:45 pm CST, Zoom meeting (please find the registration link below)



The early modern Japanese nun-artist, Ōtagaki Rengetsu (1791-1875), left nearly one thousand waka poems, a number multiplied by their repeated inscription on all manner of surfaces, from pottery to poem sheets to hanging scrolls with accompanying paintings. This vast body of poetic work speaks to Rengetsu’s use of the ancient thirty-one syllable form as her primary mode of creative expression and intellectual ordering of the world. The vitality and social immediacy of the nun’s poetry open up onto a vibrant world of waka, and its theorization in the Tokugawa period, countering notions of waka’s stagnation since the medieval period, when it gave way to forms such as renga, and subsequently haikai in the early modern era. Although Rengetsu left no poetic treatises or theoretical texts of her own, her vast oeuvre of verses and inscribed art works in their totality amount to a waka poetics of practice that rewards analysis for its richness and complexity of allusion, subject position, and medium specificity.

This talk offers a meditation on the embodied qualities of Rengetsu’s work, from her use of a subject position in which the presence of the poet seems to dominate, to the haptic presentation of her waka calligraphy incised into her pottery. It then turns to an analysis of one of Rengetsu’s most famous poems, instantiated in word and image, to show the multiplicity of poetic subject positions she employs, as well as, ultimately, an embodied self rhetorically undermined.



Zoom Registration Link:


After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting (Recently, Zoom confirmations also tend to be categorized as Spam. Please also check your spam box for the confirmation email.). This talk will possibly be recorded.



Professor Melissa McCormick is the Professor of Japanese Art and Culture at Harvard University, earned her B.A. from the University of Michigan (1990) and her Ph.D. in Japanese Art History from Princeton University (2000). Before moving to Harvard, she was the Atsumi Assistant Professor of Japanese Art at Columbia University (2000-05) in the Department of Art History and Archaeology. Much of her research focuses on the relationship of art and literature, as well as forms of visual storytelling, and their integration with social and intellectual history. Her first book, Tosa Mitsunobu and the Small Scroll in Medieval Japan (University of Washington, 2009), argued for the emergence of a new picto-literary genre around the fifteenth century, and it used a methodology of envisioning the intellectual horizons of real or hypothetical viewers in the circle of the artist Tosa Mitsunobu and the scholar-courtier Sanjōnishi Sanetaka.

Several articles reconstruct the interpretive communities of female readers, writers, and artists in the late medieval period by focusing on ink-line (hakubyō) narrative paintings, which Professor McCormick argues, functioned as an alternative space for creative expression from a female gendered subject position. Her ongoing work on the eleventh-century narrative The Tale of Genji has resulted in over a dozen publications in both English and Japanese. Her research on the Genji Album in the Harvard Art Museums was featured on an NHK documentary (2008), and became the basis for her book, The Tale of Genji: A Visual Companion (Princeton University Press, 2018), which provides fifty-four essays on each chapter of the tale. In 2019 she guest curated the international loan exhibition The Tale of Genji: A Japanese Classic Illuminated, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Professor Chelsea Foxwell is the Associate Professor of Art History and the College at The University of Chicago. Her scholarship ranges from the medieval through modern periods of Japanese art with special emphasis on the 19th and 20th centuries. She is the author of Making Modern Japanese-Style Painting: Kano Hōgai and the Search for Images (2015). In 2012 she co-curated the exhibition Awash in Color: French and Japanese Prints with Anne Leonard at the Smart Museum of Art.

Her work focuses on Japan’s artistic interactions with the rest of East Asia and beyond, nihonga and yōga (Japanese oil painting); “export art” and the world’s fairs; practices of image circulation, exhibition, and display; and the relationship between image-making and the kabuki theater.

A member of the Committee on Japanese Studies and the Center for the Art of East Asia, she is a contributor to the Digital Scrolling Paintings and the Reading Kuzushiji projects.

Or Porath, DEC 2

Speaker: Or Porath (Post-Doctoral Researcher Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations)

Japan’s Forgotten God: Jūzenji in Literature and the Visual Arts

Discussant: Ian Cipperly (PhD student, Department of History)

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020

4:45-6:45 pm, Zoom meeting (please find the registration link below)

* Collaboration with the APEA (Art and Politics of East Asia)



The paper will explore the deity Jūzenji 十禅師 of the Sannō pantheon of Hie Shrine in Shiga prefecture. Lost during the separation of Buddhism and Shinto in the Meiji period, Juzenji’s medieval importance has been all but forgotten. Through the examination of textual and visual evidence, the paper will argue that powerful and influential people, such as the Tendai monk Jien (1155-1225) and the chroniclers lineage (kike) of Mt. Hiei, decided to actively promote Jūzenji for their own ends, and in effect, elevated him to the status of supreme divinity, rivaling his own godhead. The paper will show that while it is often assumed Shinto doxa and praxis were entirely subsumed under Buddhist hegemony, it is possible to detect non-Buddhist tendencies becoming increasingly dominant in medieval Japanese religion—as demonstrated by doctrinal articulations that centered on the forgotten god Jūzenji. The cult’s elevation of Jūzenji as part of its kami-centrism can be seen as an assertion of Shinto innovation—which opened new ways for thinking about kami.


Zoom Registration Link:


After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. Furthermore, this talk will be recorded.


Or Porath is a scholar of Buddhist studies with broad interests in East Asian religions, the history of gender and sexuality, and monasticism. Porath specializes in the religions of Japan, specifically the influential school of Tendai Buddhism, its doctrines and practices, and the intersection between the Buddhist worldviews and issues of gender and sexuality. His current book project, The Dharma of Sex: Initiation and Deification in Japanese Religion, examines the “consecration of acolytes” (chigo kanjō), a sexual initiation that was doctrinally sanctioned in orthodox Buddhist teachings. Porath investigates in his work how male-male sexual acts were sanctified and grounded in Tendai doctrinal concepts, and the manner in which they shed light on the Buddhist assimilation of local forms of worship including Shinto.


He is the author of “The Cosmology of Male-Male Love in Medieval Japan: Nyakudō no Kanjinchō and the Way of Youths,” in Journal of Religion in Japan (2015), the article “Nasty Boys or Obedient Children? Childhood and Relative Autonomy in Medieval Japanese Pedagogical Texts,” in Child’s Play: Multi-sensory Histories of Children and Childhood in Japan (2017), and “Sexuality” in The Bloomsbury Handbook of Japanese Religions (2021).


Ian Blaise Cipperly is a PhD student in the University of Chicago History department. He received his BA with High Honors from The University of California at Berkeley in 2011 and his MA from The Department of History at The University of Oregon in 2016. This year, he acted as panel organizer for the 49th Meeting of the Southwest Conference on Asian Studies “Profane voices in Sacred Discourse: Re-centering the Periphery Through the Materiality of Religious Traditions of East Asia,” where he presented his paper “Contradictions in ordering the Sacred: The Entropy of Numinous Authority in Early Modern Japanese Festivals.” Additionally, he presented his individual paper “Ordering the Sacred: Numinous Authority in Early Modern Japanese Festivals” at the 69th Midwest Conference on Asian Affairs. While his main interests are in Japanese history (Azuchi-Momoyama and Edo period Japan (1568-1868)), he also has an interest in early modern formulations of Tendai through his research on Tōshōgū and Tokugawa Ieyasu. For more information regarding Ian and his academic interests, please refer to his department’s website ( and his CV.

Alan Longino, NOV 18

Speaker: Alan Longino (PhD student, Department of Art History)

Yutaka Matsuzawa and Looking Around Quantum Art

Discussant: Orianna Cacchione (Curator of Global Contemporary Art, Smart Museum of Art)

Wednesday, November 18th 2020

4:45-6:45 pm, Zoom meeting (please find the registration link below)



Yutaka Matsuzawa (b. 1922 / d. 2006, Shimo Suwa) is considered a leading figure in postwar Japanese conceptual art. In 1988, he published his seminal Quantum Art Manifesto, considered as the most mature realization of his decades-long dedication and practice to the immaterial and invisible realm of images. In this talk, I look at both this manifesto and select works of the artist’s career that led to the culmination of the manifesto. I analyze these not only as a guide in understanding the practice of Matsuzawa but more as a primer for considering a world of images removed from the physical and temporal limitations of artistic practice. I apply this consideration to the content of our current and future world of increasingly high image and information saturation, and draw—like Matsuzawa—from sources as diverse as ethology, quantum physics and computing, and economics to highlight this relationship of Quantum Art to the experience of images today. In particular, this talk gives due credence to the legibility of memes and their data, the online communities which create them, and the complex relationships between identity, spirituality, and economics that they pursue, critique, and build anew. Towards the end, I return to Matsuzawa’s Quantum Art with the realization and hypothesis that art and the images produced today are, like the quantum state itself, thick with uncertainty in their form and that their existence is—to use a term shared by Matsuzawa and the founder of modern computer, Alan Turing—“telepathic” in nature. Finally, after considering the quantum state these telepathic images exist in, I bring up the issue that correlation may equal causation if we are to seriously consider the future of images and the manner in which their surplus information is
being conducted and manipulated.


Gradient of FFCAD4

Gradient of FFCAD4


Zoom Registration Link:


Alan Longino is a Ph.D. student studying postwar Japanese conceptual art and global contemporary art. His research considers a telepathic & post-verity mode of communication between information systems and image production. Previously, he co-curated the exhibition, Yutaka Matsuzawa, at Yale Union (2019, with Reiko Tomii), and re-published the artist’s 1988 manuscript, Quantum Art Manifesto, for the first time outside of Japan. He has contributed writing towards essay and exhibition texts for artists, museums, and galleries, and criticism of his has appeared in HeichiArtforum, and the Haunt Journal of Art, UC Irvine. Alongside his academic research, Alan was a founding member of Wendy’s Subway, a library, writing space, and independent publisher in Brooklyn, NY, and has worked in galleries such as Jan Kaps, Cologne, and Miguel Abreu Gallery, New York.


Orianna Cacchione is currently the Curator of Global Contemporary Art at the Smart Museum of Art. Her curatorial practice is committed to expanding the canon of contemporary art to respond to the global circulations of art and ideas. At the Smart Museum, Cacchione has curated the exhibitions, The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China (with Wu Hung), which interrogated how materiality informs contemporary Chinese art; Samson Young: Silver moon or golden star, which will you buy of me?, the first solo exhibition of the Hong Kong-based sound artist in the United States; and Tang Chang: The Painting that Is Painted with Poetry Is Profoundly Beautiful, the first solo presentation of the pioneering abstract artist’s work outside of Thailand. She is currently developing an exhibition that considers Transpacific artistic exchanges, as well as editing a new volume with Professor Wei-Cheng Lin: The Allure of Matter: Materiality across Chinese Art. Prior to joining the Smart Museum, Cacchione was Curatorial Fellow for East Asian Contemporary Art in the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Art Institute of Chicago, where she was responsible for expanding the museum’s collection of contemporary art from East Asia. Her work led to transformative acquisitions of artworks from China, Japan, South Korea, and Thailand. She also curated the exhibition, Zhang Peili: Record. Repeat., the first major presentation of the Chinese video artist at an American museum.


Cacchione’s scholarly research explores the transnational, cross-geographic flows of art and art history that characterize the global art world. She holds a PhD in Art History, Theory, and Criticism from the University of California, San Diego, a MA from Goldsmiths College and a BA from the University of Michigan. Her writing has been published in The Journal of Art HistoriographyYishu, and the Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art.

Maki Kaneko, June 5

Maki Kaneko, PhD., Associate Professor, The Kress Foundation Department of Art History, University of Kansas

“Inter-Imperial (Bri)Collage”: Jimmy Tsutomu Mirikitani’s Visualization of Incarceration, Hiroshima and New York City

Discussant: Chelsea Foxwell, PhD., Associate Professor of Art History and the College, Department of Art History

Friday, June 5, 2020

4:30-6:30 pm (CT), Zoom meeting (please find the registration link below)

Abstract: This presentation focuses on the artist Jimmy Tsutomu Mirikitani (1920-2012) and explores how his collage-drawings pose a challenge to the normative mode of history writing. Mirikitani was born in Sacramento, California, raised in and trained as a painter in Hiroshima, Japan, and returned to the U.S. at age eighteen. During the Pacific War, Mirikitani was incarcerated and forced to renounce his U.S. citizenship. From the late 1980s, Mirikitani, without acknowledgment of his reinstated U.S. citizenship, lived and made his art on the streets of New York City to survive as well as keep his memories alive. Mirikitani’s interstitial identity as a kibei (the Japanese Americans educated in Japan) and long-term stateless person, trans-Pacific trajectories, and street life in NYC largely shaped his signature art form and practice: a mélange of Nihonga (traditionalist-style Japanese painting) and photo-collage made out of cast-off materials. These works were also created through ad-hoc collaborations with the NYC neighbors and pedestrians who provided the artist with necessary tools or labor. Through this highly entangled art form and unconventional working method, the artist made a bold claim about his legitimate position within mainstream US-Japan history as well as the post-1945 NY art community.  Given his improvised method of collaboration and interstitial identity, I propose to analyze Mirikitani’s collaged works through the two critical conceptual lenses of “bricolage” and “inter-imperiality.” This study thereby considers the radical potentials of Mirikitani’s art which invites us to reimagine the histories beyond the rigid fixities of nation-state and identitarian politics.

Jimmy Tsutomu Mirikitani, Untitled (Hiroshima), ca. 2001.

Zoom Registration Link:

This event is co-sponsored by the Center for East Asian Studies at the University of Chicago.


Maki Kaneko is an Associate Professor in the Kress Foundation Department of Art History at the University of Kansas, where she researches and teaches modern and contemporary Japanese visual arts and the art of Asian Americans and the Asian diaspora. Her publications include the single-authored book Mirroring the Japanese Empire: The Male Figure in Yoga Painting, 1930-1950 (Brill, 2015) and the co-edited volume “Modern & Contemporary East Asian Art,” special issue, Spencer Museum of Art The Register VIII, no. 5 (2019). She also has published the book chapter “Japanese Modern Art History in North America and the Perspective of Asian American Art Studies,” in Taniguchi Fumie Studies (Toyonaka: Ryūshidō, 2018), “War Heroes of Modern Japan: Early 1930s War Fever and the Three Brave Bombers,” in Conflicts of Interest: The Art of War in Modern Japan (St. Louis: St. Louis Art Museum, 2016), and the journal article “New Art Collectives in the Service of the War: The Formation of Art Organizations During the Asia-Pacific War, 1937-1945,” Positions: East Asia Cultures Critique 21, no. 2 (Spring 2013). Kaneko is currently working on a book-length study of and an exhibition on Jimmy Tsutomu Mirikitani and Japanese and Japanese American artists in the post-9/11 era.

Chelsea Foxwell’s scholarship ranges from the medieval through modern periods of Japanese art with special emphasis on the 19th and 20th centuries. She is the author of Making Modern Japanese-Style Painting: Kano Hōgai and the Search for Images (2015). In 2012 she co-curated the exhibition Awash in Color: French and Japanese Prints with Anne Leonard at the Smart Museum of Art. Her work focuses on Japan’s artistic interactions with the rest of East Asia and beyond, nihonga and yōga (Japanese oil painting); “export art” and the world’s fairs; practices of image circulation, exhibition, and display; and the relationship between image-making and the kabuki theater. A member of the Committee on Japanese Studies and the Center for the Art of East Asia, she is a contributor to the Digital Scrolling Paintings and the Reading Kuzushiji projects.


Yoon-Jee Choi, April 17

Yoon-Jee Choi, PhD student, Department of Art History

          “Time Shall Not Mend: Establishing the Lineage of Tsugi 継ぎ[Japanese Ceramic Repair]”

Respondent: Sizhao Yi, PhD student, Department of Art History

Friday, April 17, 2020

4:30-6:30 pm, Zoom meeting (please find the registration link below)

Abstract: While plenty of instructions and discussions have been created on tsugi 継ぎ [Japanese repairing pottery with lacquer often mixed with metal substance​], a pivotal trend appears among them: most of them are grounded in the arcane Orientalism of Zen Buddhism, Japanese tea ceremony culture, and wabi-sabi. The previous discourses strongly restrict the spectrum of research on the technique in two ways and, concerning this problem, this presentation aims to open a new path for an extensive research on tsugi by directly engaging these issues. First, the act of tsugi has long been overshadowed by the excessive emphasis on kin 金 [gold] of kintsugi. There are various types of breakage or flaws on ceramic wares not surprising considering their fragile nature. However, not all blemishes or all ceramic wares became the object of tsugi and, even when the technique was applied, various mediums were adopted for mixing with the lacquer adhesive, including silver powder, red lacquer, and black lacquer. Thus, I will concentrate on the act of tsugi rather than kin to discuss why particular ceramic pieces and flaws were chosen to be restored with diverse mediums, and to study how this trend has transformed throughout the history. The other issue relates to tsugi’s secular aspect; past researchers have disregarded the tastes of tea masters, closely intertwined with shogunal governments, under the shadow of Zen Buddhism. The predilection of the major Japanese premodern tea masters, Sen no Rikyū千利休 (1522-1591) and his disciple, Furuta Oribe 古田織部 (1543-1615), for “aleatory aesthetics” and furthered the technique to a distinct style. This talk will research on the rise and development of tsugi within the Japanese shogunal culture from the 16th century to the Edo Period 江戸時代 (1603-1868). Overall, I concentrate on building the “tsugi lineage” anchored in tea masters and their meticulous selection of vessels, cracks, and the specific techniques from the 16th to 19th century.










Teabowl, named shumi (Mountain Sumeru), and Jūmonji (Cross), Joseon Dyansty (1392-1910), Mitsui Bunko Foundation, Tokyo.


Zoom Registration Link:

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact Zhenru Zhou ( and Yin Wu (


Yoon-Jee Choi is a Ph.D. student whose research revolves around material culture, craftsmanship, and inter-regional dynamics of premodern East Asian art history, particularly concentrating on Korea and Japan. She received her BA in Division of International Studies and History of Art from Ewha Womans University. She has completed her coursework for her MA in History of Art and is currently working on her thesis on Korean monkey paintings during the late Joseon Dynasty. She has interned for the National Museum of Korea and worked as a research assistant for the Asian Museum Institute in Seoul. In 2019 summer, her recent interest in maritime artifiacts led to a summer internship at National Research Institute of Maritime Cultural Heritage of Korea.

Sizhao Yi is a PhD student in East Asian art and material culture with a particular interest in objects from late imperial China. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong in 2016, and her MA from the University of Chicago in 2017. Her master’s thesis examined two embroidered jackets excavated from an imperial tomb of the Ming Dynasty, which she encountered during her internship at the textile conservation department in the Archeology Institute, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Mew Lingjun Jiang, November 15

Mew Lingjun Jiang, MAPH-TLO’20 Art History

“The Fluidity of Image and Symbol in Karuta Japanese Playing Cards, 1573-Today”

Respondent: Robert Burgos, PhD student, Department of History

Friday, November 15, 2019

4:30-6:30 pm, CWAC 156

A Pre-circulated paper is available at this link with a password: karuta.

Abstract: The visual and material developments of ephemera, such as karuta (かるた・カルタ・歌留多・骨牌) the Europe-originated Japanese playing cards, have involved more than what can be observed. Although karuta are meant to be expendable objects, their material varieties include gold-leafed, hand-painted, woodblock-printed, and color-stenciled cards, made by detailed outlining and careful coloring, sometimes with abstractive designs and a calligraphic touch in bold contrast, leaving traces of illustrative depictions in artworks and artifacts. However, most of the research on karuta, especially of the regional patterns, is rule-oriented through a lens of gaming and gambling studies, and the variations in the abstractive and expressive design of these playing cards have long been a mystery.

The visual and material study of the continuously changing message carried by karuta takes us back to the everyday life in the past and connects us to the future discussion of art, games, and the relationship between humans, images, and things. Based on current studies of the cultural history of karuta written in Japanese, and adding to the limited research written in English, this paper describes and explains the fluidity of images and symbols of karuta as cultural icons, as well as the visual history of their artistic depictions, curious designs, and regional patterns from the Tenshō era (1573-92) to the present day.

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact Zhenru Zhou ( and Yin Wu (


“Mew” Lingjun Jiang is a second-year MAPH-TLO student studying Japanese art history. With a background in studio art, Mew wrote a master’s thesis last year to examine the visuality and materiality of contemporary nihonga painter Matsui Fuyuko’s works, which inspired Mew’s own art practice. The thesis discussed how Matsui’s subject of anatomy, the process of painting, and the artist’s stylistic choice and narrative alter the meaning of the body and challenge the way of seeing the female body in art. Mew is interested in exploring the concept of seeing and the process of recognizing and transmitting pictorial information in varied visual and material forms under the influence of factors such as regional and intercultural communications.

Robert Burgos is a PhD student at the Department of History studying modern urban history in Japan. His research interests include: Twentieth-century community formation in Japanese cities among marginalized and minority groups; relationship of these processes to the broader development of shōsū minzoku (minority) identity and “Japanese” identity in Japan. Robert received his B.A. degree from Political Science & Asian Studies at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor in 2012. He was a University of Chicago Urban Doctoral Fellow in 2018-2019 and an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Curatorial Intern at the Smart Museum of Art in 2016-2017.

Feb. 1, Zhiyan Yang

Thursday, February 1,  5:00 – 7:00 pm, CWAC 152  (Please note the special day and time)

When Recent Past Became New History: Learning from a Historical Survey (1987-1991) of Modern Architecture in China

Zhiyan Yang

Department of Art History, University of Chicago

”International Bridge in Tientsin,” an index label from The Architectural Heritage of Modern China: Tianjin中国近代建築総覧総覧:天津篇 (1989)

From 1987 to 1991, a team comprised of both Chinese and Japanese architectural historians collaborated to survey the existing architecture built in between 1840s and 1940s among eighteen Chinese cities and compiled an extensive list of data. Known as the Comprehensive Study of Modern Architecture in China 中国近代建筑总览, the project has reinvigorated the field and remained foundational to this day. I argue that it is unique not only as a corpus of documentation, but also as a historic event in itself. The nature of the collaboration cultivated a changing attitude towards China’s architectural heritages, revealing negotiations between different cultural, linguistic, and historiographical traditions. By unfolding the processes of knowledge production, comparing publications from both the Chinese and Japanese sides, and questioning the historical connotations and intricacies behind them, I hope to shed new light on how the Chinese architectural world understood and adapted to the new challenges by reconsidering its recent architectural past as a critical site for modernization. Analyzing both text and image through a comparative perspective, I will also explain the project against background of a globalizing contemporary architectural culture in the 1980s and explore why this particular history has had a broader intellectual and social impact on the entire region of East Asia.

Thursday, February 1,  5:00 – 7:00 pm, CWAC 152

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact Nancy P. Lin (

THURS. October 5, Adrian Favell

Thursday, October 5,  5-7pm, CWAC 156

After the Tsunami: Japanese Contemporary Art since 2011

Adrian Favell

Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures, University of Leeds


Art collective Shibuhouse led by Saito Keita


What effect have the Triple Earthquake disasters of March 2011 had on Japanese contemporary art? Japanese contemporary art since the 1990s has mainly been associated with the popular culture inspired work of artists such as Murakami Takashi, Nara Yoshitomo, Mori Mariko and Aida Makoto. The rupture of 2011 however made clear a major shift in Japanese art towards more community based, socially engaged, and politically critical work, including among this older generation. While explaining the longstanding roots of socially engaged “art projects” as a distinctive feature of the Japanese art world, the talk will focus on the changing output of a younger generation of artists: particularly the rise of the art unit Chim↑Pom, and the story of three even younger Tokyo art collectives, whose work has also shifted the line between art, politics and everyday survival—Chaos★Lounge, Shibuhouse and Parplume. The talk is based on a new chapter for a forthcoming revised and updated edition (in Japanese and English) of my book, Before and After Superflat: A Short History of Japanese Contemporary Art 1990-2011 (Blue Kingfisher/DAP 2012).


This event is sponsored by the University of Chicago Center for East Asian Studies with support from a Title VI National Resource Center Grant from the United States Department of Education.

Thursday, October 5,  5-7pm, CWAC 156

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact Nancy P. Lin (

May 6 Henry Smith

Friday, May 6, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

Making Meiji Red: Materiality vs Meaning in the Changing Colors of 19th-century Ukiyo-e

Henry Smith
Professor Emeritus of Japanese History, EALC, Columbia University

Two decades ago, I postulated a “Blue Revolution” in ukiyo-e woodblock prints that began in 1829 with a sudden increase in the use of imported Prussian blue, a versatile pigment that quickly dominated landscape prints in particular. I further argued that this bright new blue came to express a new awareness of the world across blue oceans under blue skies into which the Japanese were increasingly drawn. I hypothesized finally that a similar process would be repeated four decades later in the 1860s with the import of a new generation of imported colorants, but now the principal hues were purple and red. With the Meiji Restoration of 1868, I proposed, “Red became the modal color of another era with other priorities: where late-Edo blue was the color of expanding space, Meiji red was to become the color of accelerated time.” This talk is a report on an ongoing research project in which I have been engaged for two years in cooperation with the Department of Scientific Research at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, to identify these new colorants and trace their history. The results force a thorough reconception of the materiality of Meiji ukiyo-e colorants and their artistic possibilities, and in turn a new look at the diverse and changing meanings embodied in “Meiji Red.”

Friday, May 6, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156
Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact

April 8 Sandy Lin

Friday, April 8, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

The Hōōden (Phoenix Pavilion) Screens from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition: An Object Biography

Sandy Lin
Ph.D. Student, Art History, University of Chicago

In Summer 2015, a group of three screens were discovered in a storage facility of the Chicago Park District and later acquired by the Art Institute of Chicago. Photographs of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition and contemporary sources suggest that the screens were painted by Hashimoto Gahō for the Hōōden (Phoenix Pavilion), a building commissioned by the Japanese government and erected in Jackson Park for the fair. Their discovery makes an exciting addition to the four ranma (transom) panels (now on display at the Art Institute of Chicago) as the only surviving architectural elements from the Hōōden, which burned down in 1946. Nevertheless, a close examination of the screens has revealed some material discrepancies and historical incongruities. In an effort to clarify the confusion, this presentation outlines the object biography of the screens, following their footsteps through their (1) material birth in 1892, (2) career in the 1893 World’s Fair, (3) neglect after the conclusion of the fair, (4) second career from 1936 to 1942 in a Japanese teahouse that was converted from the Hōōden, and (5) provisional death in 1943, when they were removed from the teahouse and sheltered in storage. Throughout the different stages in their life, the screens developed numerous relationships with various communities of people and objects, accumulating a biography that exemplifies their anachronic ability to embody multiple temporalities.

Friday, April 8, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156
Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact