Hokusai exhibition set to make waves at the College of DuPage

Every other summer, the College of DuPage has launched a major art exhibition, the kind of cultural happening usually associated with a big-city museum.

First came Frida. Then Warhol. Now, the college is getting ready to make waves with a study of 19th-century Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai and fellow masters of the Ukiyo-e school of art.

“Hokusai and Ukiyo-e: The Floating World” will open in the summer of 2025 at the college’s McAninch Arts Center and its Cleve Carney Museum of Art in Glen Ellyn.

In Hokusai’s most famous work, “The Great Wave,” a wall of water swells above fishing boats on a ferocious sea, with Mount Fuji, miniature by comparison, in the background.

All told, the exhibition will feature the largest collection of Japanese artworks in Europe, museum officials note. It is currently on display in Rome but will soon be taken down. Due to their age, the pieces must “rest” for a year before being exposed to the elements again. Cleve Carney Museum officials will be traveling to Rome next week to select which pieces will be in next summer’s exhibit.

Utagawa Kunimasa: The Actor Nakamura Nakazō II as Matsuōmaru in the wagon-stopping scene from the drama “Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami”; Woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and color on paper; vertical ōban, 1796. Courtesy of the Edoardo Chiossone Museum of Oriental Art of Genoa

“I think what I’m the most excited about is being able to delve into a whole new world and culture,” McAninch Arts Center Director Diana Martinez said. “The art is really special and unique.

“To be able to have these world-class international exhibits here is a tremendous opportunity and very rare and unique,” she added.

The community college ventured into unexpected territory — summer blockbuster exhibitions — with “Frida Kahlo: Timeless” in 2021. “WARHOL” gave a full portrait of the enterprising prince of Pop Art beyond the soup cans.

Hokusai was obsessed with achieving immortality through his art. His woodblock prints would cross cultural boundaries. Warhol produced his version of “The Great Wave” in the 1980s.

“The Floating World” will dive into Hokusai’s prolific career, the life behind the ubiquitous image, with a historical area and timeline in the McAninch Arts Center.

The exhibition will showcase about 50 original works — some are hand-painted hanging scrolls in paper and silk — by artists of Japan’s Edo period (1603-1868).

Along with a selection of 10 works by Hokusai, including “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” from the series “Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji,” visitors will see 17 pieces by Ukiyo-e artist Hiroshige as well as works by 15 of their contemporaries.

“It captures the phenomenal clothing and culture of that period of time,” said Justin Witte, curator of the Cleve Carney Museum of Art, adding art from Edo Japan inspired artists in other periods.

Justin Witte, the curator of the Cleve Carney Museum of Art at the College of DuPage, announces the exhibition plans for “Hokusai and Ukiyo-e: The Floating World.” Photo by Corey R. Minkanic, courtesy of COD

Much like previous exhibits, Martinez said the McAninch Arts Center will be transformed to transport guests back to the era of emperors and shoguns. Some ideas include a Japanese garden, a scene that guests can walk through that resembles what life was like during that era, a children’s craft area and a display about the Edo period’s influence on anime.

The arts center also plans to partner with surrounding towns to help promote the exhibit. Organizers plan to commission an artist to create Ukiyo-e-inspired prints of a well-known feature from each town. Much like the Warhol murals, the prints could then be publicly displayed in those towns to help celebrate “The Floating World.”

The works are on loan from a museum named for Edoardo Chiossone, a Genoese engraver who lived and worked in Japan at the end of the 19th century.

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