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Print National continues at SHY RABBIT, featuring Yuji Hiratsuka

SHY RABBIT Contemporary Arts continues its inaugural Print National: A National Juried Exhibition through Oct. 10, featuring 72 fine art prints, representing 30 nationally recognized printmakers from 20 states.

The juror for this prestigious group exhibition is Michael D. Barnes, associate professor of art and head of the printmaking program at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill., where he has taught since 1998.

The Print National features two intriguing figurative lithographs by nationally-recognized artist and professor of printmaking, Yuji Hiratsuka.

The prints are titled “Full Bloom” and “Vegetarists”, suggestive of the figures that Hiratsuka so skillfully invents with cactus heads and floral blooming hands.

Hiratsuka’s work is a synthesis of old Japanese Ukiyo-e tradition and modern Western elements. Born in Osaka, Japan, in 1954, he continues to see Japan as a land of contrasts.

Hiratsuka mentions two examples:

“For example, Japanese gardens are cultivated high atop thirty story Western skyscrapers, or people dine on McDonald’s hamburgers while watching Sumo wrestling. In my work I explore this chaotic coexistence.”

Raised among the mixture of East and West, Hiratsuka’s art works are kind of a mirror of these contrasts.

“There are many and varied points of view in modern Japan,” he says. “Some survive from historic periods of significant aesthetic and philosophical development. Two periods in particular contribute to what is known as traditional Japanese art.

“During the first, in the middle of the 16th century, the Shogun lords closed Japan to all foreign interactions and evolved an art independent of Chinese models. The most important influence was the simplicity born in the spirit of the Zen sect. Art based on Zen was an art of suggestion rather than expression; it emphasized the importance of empty spaces and simple forms.

“The second period is the Edo era of the 17th century in which the Ukiyo-e school developed a popular art form, largely prints and reproductions, inexpensively designed for common people. Ukiyo-e art was decorative and brightly colored and often featured poster-like caricatures of national personalities (Yakusha-e).”

Combining the techniques of intaglio, relief, and chine collé, Hiratsuka creates images from the ancient and the contemporary to express the mismatched unification and hodgepodge, which can be seen in daily life. His chine collé prints on Japanese washi paper express the whimsical and spontaneous aspects of human nature.

“I do not draw eyes or noses on my portraits,” says Hiratsuka. “The human face is always changing; the face at work is different from the face that enjoys the love. Aging changes the faces also. I want my prints to express this change. The portraits are left ambiguous so that the viewer can add his/her interpretation. This is the aspect of suggestion rather than expression. Also, I am interested in the humorous and colorful aspects of Ukiyo-e poster art.

“In my portraits I want to incorporate an element of wit through exaggeration and distortion. For emphasis, I fill in small areas with bright, whimsical colors. To express contemporary influences I use the figure dressed in Western style. My primary source of subject matter is photographs, frequently black and white, which I tear from books, magazines and newspapers. These materials are kept in my studio or in my bag, and whenever I am ready to begin a drawing for the print, I rummage through the wrinkled images.”

Hiratsuka currently serves as professor of printmaking at Oregon State University, Corvallis. His graphic work has been exhibited in the Americas, Europe and Asia. He has received numerous awards in international competitions including, most recently, the Equal Prize at Majdaneck 2000, VI International Art Triennial, and Dublin, Poland.

During the last four years he has had 14 solo shows in the United States, and international solo shows in Gabrovo, Bulgaria, and Geneva, Switzerland.

Hiratsuka’s work is included in many public collections, including the British Museum, UK; the Tokyo Central Museum, Japan; the Panstwowe Museum, Poland; The House of Humor and Satire, Bulgaria; the Cincinnati Art Museum, Ohio; the Jundt Art Museum, Washington; and the Portland Art Museum, Oregon.

SHY RABBIT presents four to six exhibitions annually, showcasing the work of emerging and nationally-recognized artists from throughout the country.

The 4,000 square-foot arts center and gallery is located “off the beaten path” in a wooded commercial district on the west end of town. SHY RABBIT houses a fine art gallery, ceramic studio, two mixed-media workshops and rotating exhibition space.

Educational workshops are also offered year-round in ceramics, printmaking, Photoshop, photography and artist development courses instructed by professional artist and SHY RABBIT Creative Director D. Michael Coffee.

SHY RABBIT is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday.

SHY RABBIT Contemporary Arts: Gallery, Studio and Workshops is located at 333 Bastille Drive, two blocks north of U.S. 160, off of North Pagosa Boulevard.

For more information on SHY RABBIT, visit www.shyrabbit.com or call 731-2766. For more information on exhibitions, visit www.shyrabbit.com/Exhibits.html.