Japan and the Art of War, 1983-1945: Japanese Military Art and Artifacts from the Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Study Centre

November 9, 2009-March 15, 2010

The art work, books, and artifacts on exhibit in Japan and the Art of War chronicle the emergence of Japan as a world military and economic power in the latter decades of the nineteenth century through the end of World War II. As Japan adjusted to its new role, artists and designers played an important role in interpreting issues surrounding war. The idea of conflict – the way it was presented to the Japanese people and to the larger world – evolved as the nation grew in power and developed its modern identity. The exhibit’s commanding and sometimes disturbing images of war and conflict are frequently superimposed onto peaceful and joyous scenes of daily life and survival that simultaneously reveal society’s capacity for cruelty and malice and its deep and abiding humanity and compassion. “Objects don’t lie,” Mitchell Wolfson is fond of saying. If through observation and study we can begin to decode the language of objects, we have gained a powerful tool to pierce the veil to the past, gaining perspective not only on what has come before, but on the prospects of the present and the future. The objects on view provide a narrative from a very specific historical perspective yet are intended to provoke thought and generate questions that are transferrable to our contemporary world.


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