Transcending Reality: The Woodcuts of Kosaka Gajin

I had the opportunity this past Wednesday, February 8th, to see the opening exhibition of Kosaka Gajin’s wood block prints at The Cincinnati Museum of Art. The collection, which is the largest in the world outside of Gajin’s family, is only a part of the Howard and Caroline Porter print collection of over 2,700 pieces. Caroline Porter was my great grandmother, and after hearing an inspiring lecture in 1959 about Japanese art at the Cincinnati Museum she decided that she had to see Japan for herself. Her collection grew steadily over the course of her life and at the time of her death in 1995 was one of the largest private collections of Japanese art in the world. She donated her whole collection, which included Kosaka Gajin’s work, to the Cincinnati Museum of Art and pieces from the collection have been on display before, but this was the first time Gajin’s work have been presented as a solo collection.

I was proud to represent my great grandmother at the opening and have a chance to see some of the pieces of her collection, which I have been hearing about my whole life. Below are a couple of my favorite pieces. img_7227



The Bent Hawk


Yanaka Five-Storied Pagoda


Darkness Over Matsushima


An Iron Bridge at Ochanomizu, Tokyo


Stone Garden

This print inspired the rock garden my dad reconstructed in my backyard at home, which he added an Inuksuk as a Nordic homage. I am considering reconstructing this rock scene for my next foundry project.

At the museum, I also saw a sculpture that I immediately recognized as a variation of George Rickey’s kinetic sculpture, Four Lines Oblique, which has a sister sculpture in the Notre Dame Sculpture Garden. img_7237

The simplicity of both Gajin’s and Rickey’s work is inspiring and I hope to keep them both as inspirations in my artistic endeavors. As I move forward with my next foundry project, ‘trophy’ I will be thinking about how I can clearly and simply get my idea across.


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