Tuesday, July 30, 2019 to Sunday, December 15, 2019

Location: Ripin Gallery (directions)

Morikawa Chikashige, Two Actors Performing as Samurai.
Photo: Courtesy of the Allen Memorial Art Museum

In conjunction with the Arts of Asia series of performances at Oberlin College, the AMAM presents a selection of color woodblock prints and masks related to Japanese theatrical traditions. This exhibition introduces five of Japan’s major forms of theater, which are illustrated in works from the AMAM collection.

GIGAKU and BUGAKU: Dating to the 7th and 8th centuries, these masked dances/pantomimes are the earliest major types of drama in Japan. Although gigaku has been lost, bugaku is still performed, often at Shinto shrines.

NŌ: Considered Japan’s classical form of drama, nō includes elaborate costumes but minimal sets and props. Main characters wear masks, but secondary characters do not. Narration and dialogue are stylized, sung both by the actors and a chorus. Although it has roots in earlier traditions, nō as it exists today was developed in the 14th century. The plays often have religious or supernatural themes. Traditionally, male actors played both male and female roles, but women have performed in nō plays since the 1940s.

KABUKI: Unlike earlier dramatic forms, which were intended for elite patrons, kabuki arose from the vibrant popular culture of the townspeople of the Edo period (1603–1868). With sumptuous sets, extravagant costumes and makeup, and sophisticated special effects, kabuki appealed to a wide audience. When kabuki originated in the early 17th century, women played both male and female roles. Restrictions in the mid-17th century, however, limited kabuki to male actors only. Kabuki actors may adopt a succession of stage names during their careers.

BUNRAKU: Another popular theatrical form from the Edo period, bunraku, has the visual splendor of kabuki in its sets and costumes, but the characters are played by large puppets. Each is brought to life by a trio of puppeteers who move different parts of the body. This art form is more properly called ningyō jōruri.

Organized by Kevin R.E. Greenwood, Joan L. Danforth Curator of Asian Art


Image Description

Morikawa Chikashige (Japanese, active second half 19th century), "Two Actors Performing as Samurai" (1874) color woodblock print.
Gift of Paul F. Walter (OC 1957), 1988.29.35


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