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See/Saw: Connections Between Japanese Art Then and Now Paperback – February 23, 2011
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"A densely informative book, "See/Saw" is a fluid read for the amateur and novice alike and is packed with intriguing insights and compelling artwork." -- Karen Day, Cool Hunting
"See/Saw offers a provocative new look at the origins of Japanese pop art." Foreword Reviews
"Clear, concise and informative, highly recommended." -- Hi Fructose
About the Author
Ivan Vartanian is an author and editor based in Tokyo, Japan.
Kyoko Wada is an art writer, critic, and historian living in Japan.
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Top customer reviews
The seven themes used here are Allusion (mitate), Space (ma), Kabuki (yes, kabuki), Diorama (kei), Animism (tama), Jest (tawake), and Empty (mu). Each then has a series of subdivisions, some revolving around very specific design elements, or specific artists, others more general, or even philosophical. Genres of art include not only painting and printmaking, but some architecture and gardening, furniture and decorative arts, sculpture, photography - this not to pretend to be truly comprehensive, which would be impossible anyway, but to at least begin to reflect the variety of Japanese art-making.
One of the really nice things about this book is, for those who are primarily interested in contemporary Japanese art, it provides a pretty decent and engaging survey of the history of art in Japan, with some really great examples along the way. There's also a historical timeline, and biographical sketches of artists (divided into three periods: Feudal, Early Modern, and Modern) to convey the information succinctly. I don't know if there are people who don't know/like contemporary Japanese art but understand the history, but if so it would probably help in that direction as well.
There is a sometimes dramatic backlash against some of the most popular and best known (especially in "the West") contemporary Japanese art, the complex that includes manga, Superflat, kawaii etc. This is to some extent understandable, as those genres do not begin to encompass or represent all of contemporary Japanese art, but I happen to like those as well as other forms. I get tired and frustrated by some of the books that seem to exist only to criticize and attempt to destroy Murakami, Hello Kitty, Nara - and some of them can be pretty harsh. This book thankfully does not do that; it acknowledges the criticisms, emphasizes more the breadth and variety, but also includes some examples of these. I think this approach is much more interesting.
Printing, binding, and paper are all very good quality, and I really like the book design as well as the content. In sum, I'd recommend this book for anyone who wants to learn more about contemporary and historical Japanese art.