Celebrating the 30th anniversary of Tsuruya Kōkei's first solo show in the United States, the exhibition will display 77 prints by this artist widely celebrated as one of Japan's leading contemporary print artists. The British Museum lauded Kōkei for producing Japan's "most notable Kabuki prints" in the post-war era.

Known for his bold portraits of Japan's leading actors in a dynamic theatrical form, Kōkei responds to the idiosyncratic late-18th century kabuki prints by the great Sharaku. A master in his own right, Kōkei captures the intense color, movement, and emotion of kabuki. Yet Kōkei diverges from tradition by designing, carving, and printing his own work. Because he uses extremely delicate paper, his works juxtapose emotionally dynamic images with fragile materials to create objects of extraordinary power.

The exhibition presents all of Kōkei's actor prints from 1984–1993. Because the artist limited his editions, such a complete collection is unprecedented and will represent a first in Texas. To explore the broader contours of Kabuki actor prints, Kōkei's work will be contextualized by actor prints by Sharaku as well as two dozen works by contemporary Japanese and western artists.

The exhibition utilizes the layered issues of identity in kabuki — where actors take on multiple roles and males take on female roles — to explore broader questions of self-definition and its representation. It includes several of Kōkei's emotionally complex self-portraits produced after he gave up actor prints in 2000. It concludes by examining how kabuki actor imagery has inspired pop images over the last 20 years, demonstrating the productive link between Japan's historic ukiyo (floating world) and our own culture.

Admission Information

Regular admission to this exhibition is free for Asia Society Members and children ages 12 and under, $5 for Students and Seniors with ID, and $8 for Nonmembers.


Hours

Tuesday – Friday, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Saturday – Sunday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Closed Mondays.


Photography

Photography of the exhibition without flash is permitted.

Related Programs and Tours

Opening Reception [CANCELED]
Thursday, September 19, 2019, 6–8 p.m.
Visit with guest curator Dr. Kendall H. Brown and receive a FREE preview of the reception.
*** This reception has been canceled due to continued storms and unpredictable flooding from Tropical Storm Imelda.

Curator Talk: Dr. Kendall H. Brown
Saturday, September 21, 2019, 2–3:30 p.m.
Guest curator Dr. Kendall H. Brown will discuss Tsuruya Kōkei's artworks and their relation to kabuki, with a focus on gender identity.

Reception
Tuesday, October 8, 2019, 6–8 p.m.
Celebrate the exhibition, with light bites provided by Cordua Catering by Churrascos and music provided by Karma DJs.


Monthly Tours

Saturday, October 12, 3 p.m.

Saturday, November 9, 3 p.m.

Saturday, December 14, 3 p.m.

To schedule a group tour outside of these designated days, please fill out the form below or contact Jennifer Kapral, Director of Education & Outreach, at JKapral@AsiaSociety.org.

Schedule a group tour »


School Tours

School tours, facilitated by the education department staff and volunteers, provide educationally rich interactive opportunities for students to learn about Asian art, culture, and traditions. These free tours are open to all public, private, charter, alternative, and home schools. Visits take place on weekdays, Tuesday through Friday, for one to two hours.

All school tours and subsequent interactive projects are tethered to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) and district curriculum standards. They may include:

  • Docent-led tour of exhibitions in the Louisa Stude Sarofim Gallery

  • "Introduction to Asia” PowerPoint Presentation highlighting essential information about Asian art, culture, geography, and politics

  • Guided tour of the Texas Center and discussion of its unique architecture

  • Interactive projects based on the current exhibition (unavailable during summer months, June through August)

At least two weeks’ notice is required for school tours. Additional advance notice is required for groups larger than 25.

Schedule a school tour »

For more information, please contact Jennifer Kapral, Director of Education & Outreach, at JKapral@AsiaSociety.org.

Press Release

HOUSTON, August 12, 2019 — Asia Society Texas Center (ASTC) features the prolific talents of one of Japan’s leading contemporary print artists in the exhibition Tsuruya Kōkei: Modern Kabuki Prints Revised & Revisited, opening September 14. The exhibition will present a remarkable 77 prints by Kōkei, including all his kabuki actor portraits from 1984 to 1993, plus a collection of his meticulously rendered self-portrait. Only the second U.S. museum to host the exhibition, ASTC will also serve as its final American venue.

Kabuki, a Japanese theatrical artform pioneered in the early 1600’s by all-female troupes, was taken over by all-male troupes in the mid-1600’s. The actors performed multiple roles (of both genders) throughout a show, and this exhibition utilizes those layered issues of identity to explore broader questions of self-definition and representation.

“Kabuki actor prints have been a beloved genre in Japanese woodblock printmaking for centuries,” says Bridget Bray, ASTC’s Nancy C. Allen Curator and Director of Exhibitions. “We are delighted to present such a comprehensive view into the ways that Kōkei both reveres and reinterprets these portraits.”

Because the artist limited his editions to just a few dozen prints per design, such a complete collection is unprecedented and will represent a first in Texas. Though he is the son and grandson of painters, Kōkei was not trained as an artist and did not even attempt creating any art until the age of 32. However, once discovered by the head of the famous Kabuki-za Theater, Kōkei linked himself with the theater and began documenting the productions’ actors via woodblock print, prodigiously turning out new prints of a different actor every month. His prints were zealously collected by theater fans, and to guarantee the prints’ rarity, he destroyed his wood blocks after each show closed.

In addition to being self-taught, Kōkei diverged further from tradition by designing, carving, and printing his own work, foregoing studio assistants. He also used magnolia, which is much softer than customary wood block sources, and printed his work on extremely delicate ganpi paper.

Curated by Dr. Kendall Brown and marking the 30th anniversary of Tsuruya Kōkei's first solo show in the United States, the current exhibition will also trace the history of kabuki artwork, starting with historic prints by the enigmatic kabuki master artist Sharaku, who dazzled the Japanese public for less than a year (1794-1795) before disappearing. And more than two dozen modern and pop-culture pieces will illustrate the lasting influence of traditional kabuki.

Fast Facts

  • Exhibition dates: Saturday, September 14, 2019 — Sunday, January 19, 2020
  • Admission: Free for members and children ages 12 and under; $5 for Students and Seniors, $8 for Nonmembers
  • Hours: Tuesday – Friday, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Saturday – Sunday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Related Programs

  • Opening Reception featuring guest curator Dr. Kendall H. Brown: Thursday, September 19, 6 p.m. | Free; RSVP requested
  • Curator Talk featuring guest curator Dr. Kendall H. Brown: Saturday, September 12, 2 p.m. | Free for Members, $5 for Students and Seniors, $8 for Nonmembers
  • Monthly docent-led tours on Saturdays, 3 p.m.: October 12, November 9, December 14 | Free for Members, $5 for Students and Seniors, $8 for Nonmembers

This exhibition is organized by USC Pacific Asia Museum, in collaboration with Asia Society Texas Center. Exhibitions at Asia Society Texas Center are presented by Nancy C. Allen and Leslie and Brad Bucher. The Japan Series is presented by Mitsubishi Corporation (Americas).  Major support comes from Chinhui Juhn and Eddie Allen and Mary Lawrence Porter, as well as The Brown Foundation, Inc., Houston Endowment, and the City of Houston through Houston Arts Alliance. Generous funding also provided by The Anchorage Foundation of Texas, The Clayton Fund, Japan Foundation New York, Texas Commission on the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, Wortham Foundation, Inc., the Franci Neely Foundation, Olive Jenney, Nanako and Dale Tingleaf, and Ann Wales. Additional support comes from United Airlines and The Southmore. Funding is also provided through contributions from the Exhibitions Patron Circle, a dedicated group of individuals and organizations committed to bringing exceptional visual art to Asia Society Texas Center.

Credits

This exhibition is organized by USC Pacific Asia Museum, in collaboration with Asia Society Texas Center, and is guest-curated by Dr. Kendall H. Brown. Exhibitions at Asia Society Texas Center are presented by Nancy C. Allen and Leslie and Brad Bucher. The Japan Series is presented by Mitsubishi Corporation (Americas).  Major support comes from Chinhui Juhn and Eddie Allen and Mary Lawrence Porter, as well as The Brown Foundation, Inc., Houston Endowment, and the City of Houston through Houston Arts Alliance. Generous funding also provided by The Anchorage Foundation of Texas, The Clayton Fund, Japan Foundation New York, Texas Commission on the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, Wortham Foundation, Inc., the Franci Neely Foundation, Olive Jenney, Nanako and Dale Tingleaf, and Ann Wales. Additional support comes from United Airlines and The Southmore.Funding is also provided through contributions from the Exhibitions Patron Circle, a dedicated group of individuals and organizations committed to bringing exceptional visual art to Asia Society Texas Center.

Japan Series Presenting Sponsor

Mitsubishi Corporation (Americas)


Presenting Sponsors

Nancy C. Allen
Leslie and Brad Bucher
Chinhui Juhn and Edward Allen

 

Program Sponsors

HAA NEA TCA

 

Additional Support

Japan Foundation

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