From Postwar to Postmodern, Art in Japan, 1945-1989

Primary Documents

From Postwar to Postmodern, Art in Japan, 1945-1989

MoMA Primary Documents

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Book Pages: 464 Illustrations: 125 illustrations, including 5 Published: December 2012

Art and Visual Culture > Art History, Asian Studies > East Asia, History > Asian History

A trove of primary source materials, From Postwar to Postmodern, Art in Japan 1945–1989 is an invaluable scholarly resource for readers who wish to explore the fascinating subject of avant-garde art in postwar Japan. In this comprehensive anthology, an array of key documents, artist manifestos, critical essays, and roundtable discussions are translated into English for the first time. The pieces cover a broad range of artistic mediums—including photography, film, performance, architecture, and design—and illuminate their various points of convergence in the Japanese context.

The collection is organized chronologically and thematically to highlight significant movements, works, and artistic phenomena, such as the pioneering artist collectives Gutai and Hi Red Center, the influential photography periodical Provoke, and the emergence of video art in the 1980s. Interspersed throughout the volume are more than twenty newly commissioned texts by contemporary scholars. Including Bert Winther-Tamaki on art and the Occupation and Reiko Tomii on the Yomiuri Independent Exhibition, these pieces supplement and provide a historical framework for the primary source materials. From Postwar to Postmodern, Art in Japan 1945–1989 offers an unprecedented look at over four decades of Japanese art—both as it unfolded and as it is seen from the perspective of the present day.

Publication of The Museum of Modern Art


“A masterpiece of organization. . . . An appreciation for the quality, variety and subtlety of thought demonstrated in the vast majority of chosen texts has been made possible by superb translators (and their editors). . . . A fine anthology.” — Don J. Cohn, ArtAsiaPacific

From Postwar to Postmodern will serve as both an outstanding textbook and a welcome resource for scholars of Japanese visual culture, literature, and film. …As the first comprehensive translation of primary sources on postwar Japanese Art, this important collection fills a pedagogical niche and opens the field beyond a small community of specialists who are proficient in Japanese.”  — Ming Tiampo, Monumenta Nipponica

“A must-have for art fans curious about the explosion of creative fervor in a country that only a decade before had been devastated by war and the atomic bomb.” — Hrag Vartanian, Hyperallergic

“A trove of primary source materials, From Postwar to Postmodern is an invaluable scholarly resource for readers who wish to explore the fascinating subject of avant-garde art in post-war Japan.”  — Asian Art

“[A] meticulous and thorough work. . . . It will be indispensable for collections with a Japanese focus, and a very important acquisition for libraries serving all levels of readers. . . . Highly recommended.” — J. B. Gregory, Choice

“This is an incredible resource for anyone serious about contemporary Japanese art and undertaking a study of the ideas, movements and manifestos that sprang from both city streets and private salons.” — Jessica Sattell, JQ Magazine

“Its value as a key to 20th century Japanese art is immediately apparent . . . From Postwar to Postmodern, weighty as a sculpture, is a welcome addition to my ookshelves devoted to Japan.”     — Mike Mosher, Leonardo Reviews

"Among the most significant changes to have occurred in our appreciation and understanding of post-war Japanese art is to no longer view it in isolation, but rather to view it as part of a larger international discourse. This volume will make a significant contribution to the field, and will be among the most critical resources available in English for new scholarship. For future generations, it will immensely enhance the understanding of contemporary Japanese art as a phenomenon that has both contributed to and participated in the globalization of art." — Paul Schimmel, Chief Curator, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and author of Out of Actions: Between Performance and the Object, 1949 –1979

"We have never really known Japan like this: From Postwar to Postmodern reveals a bracingly innovative, multifarious, and thoroughly international cultural sphere. A nuanced survey of primary texts betrays a roiling milieu in which form and content, modernism and tradition, realism and abstraction, things (mono) and ideas (koto) were hotly debated amid a historically specific context of violence, guilt, and trauma. New ways of working—from Gutai and Jikken Kobo’s intermedia experiments to collaborations in performance, architecture, and other disciplines—informed advanced art both within and beyond Japan. This book greatly enriches a discourse that is still unfolding today." — Michelle Kuo, Editor in Chief, Artforum


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Doryun Chong is Associate Curator of Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art.

Michio Hayashi is Professor in the Faculty of Liberal Arts at Sophia University in Tokyo.

Kenji Kajiya is Associate Professor in the Faculty of Arts at Hiroshima City University.

Fumihiko Sumitomo is an accomplished independent curator in Tokyo.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Foreword / Glenn D. Lowry  10
Acknowledgments / Jay A. Levenson and Gwen Farrelly  12
About This Book / Doryun Chong  14
Japan's Postwar and After, 1945-1989: An Overview / Harry Harootunian  17
1. 1945-1957: Postwar Reconstruction—From Occupation to the Cold War / Michio Hayashi  24
2. 1957-1964: From Postwar to International Reemergence / Doryun Chong  96
3. 1964-1970: After the Avant-Garde, An Expanding Field / Fumihiko Sumitomo  184
4. 1970-1980: Restructuring Toward the Postmodern / Kenji Kajiya  256
5. 1980-1989: Postmodernism and Global Negotiation / Michio Hayashi, Kenji Kajiya, and Fumihiko Sumitomo, with Akira Tatahata  342
Postscript: Japanese Art after 1989 / Michio Hayashi, Kenji Kajiya, and Fumihiko Sumitomo  410
Chronology: 1945-1989 / Compiled by Masathshi Nakajima, with editorial assistance by Doryun Chong  414
Index  424
Credits  438
Trustees of the Museum of Modern Art  440

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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5368-3
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