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Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

Zoom [Registration link available below]
Event date: 
Monday, 14 February, 2022 - 17:30


Avant-Garde Calligraphers in Postwar Japan and Their International Aspirations

In the early postwar years, avant-garde calligraphers from Japan radically transformed their art with the aim of bringing calligraphy to the same level of recognition as abstract painting. In order to reach this goal, they launched creative collaborations with European Art Informel artists and American Abstract Expressionists, and soon started sharing exhibition spaces with them at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Documenta in Kassel, São Paulo Biennale, and Carnegie International.  

Based on the recent book Bokujinkai: Japanese Calligraphy and the Postwar Avant-Garde, this talk will introduce the Kyoto-based avant-garde calligraphy group Bokujinkai, and explore their international trajectories. By exploring the nexus between visual, intellectual, art historical, and metaphysical cross-currents between the Bokujinkai and their foreign peers, I present their collaborations as one of the most fascinating examples of the early postwar global art exchanges, and draw attention to calligraphy as a phenomenon of the global postwar avant-garde.  

Eugenia Bogdanova-Kummer is Lecturer in Japanese Arts, Culture, and Heritage at the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures, affiliated to the University of East Anglia.

She is an art historian specialising in modern Japanese art. Before joining the Sainsbury Institute in 2018, she received her Ph.D. from Heidelberg University and held postdoctoral positions at Emory University, Atlanta, GA and Smithsonian Freer and Sackler Galleries, Washington, D.C. Her research interests include postwar art in Japan; modern calligraphy history in East Asia; transcultural studies; abstract art; and the relationship between image and language in modern Japan. She is the author of Bokujinkai: Japanese Calligraphy and the Postwar Avant-Garde (Japanese Visual Culture Series 19, Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2020), and currently working on her second book project on the history of calligraphy modernization in East Asia.


Image: Morita Shiryū, Rainbow (虹, Niji), 1975. Ink on paper, 45.0 × 69.0 cm. private collection, fragment