In commemoration of the grand opening of their new gallery at Bryant Park Place, Ronin Gallery is pleased to present a carefully curated collection of Japanese woodblock prints in Iconic: Images of the Floating World. From Hokusai’s Great Wave off Kanagawa to Kuniyoshi’s Skeleton Scepter, this exhibition presents an unprecedented opportunity to experience some of the most influential designs of ukiyo-e together in a single exhibition. The term iconic speaks to an immortality, an undimming radiance that crosses cultures and centuries. In the history of art, certain works are universally recognizable, from museum walls to emojis, these iconic designs blur the line between life and art.
Ukiyo-e translates to “pictures of the floating world.” This ephemeral realm refers to the pleasure-focused culture centered in Edo, Japan (modern day Tokyo) during the 18th-19th centuries. Ukiyo-e captured the city’s exciting urban culture and promoted its beauty, humor, fashions and heroes as one of the world’s first forms of popular art. Artists such as Utamaro portrayed the enchanting beauties of the Yoshiwara, the city’s legal brothel district. The theatricality of Kabuki theater came to life in Sharaku’s portraits, while Kuniyoshi and Yoshitoshi channeled popular imagination through the bizarre, legendary, and the supernatural. As travel restrictions loosened, Hiroshige and Hokusai captured the excitement of life on the road and the natural beauty of Japan.
Ronin Gallery’s collection spans from 17th century Buddhist woodcuts through Japan’s most promising contemporary talents. Sparked by a passion for the ever-contemporary spirit of ukiyo-e, Ronin Gallery, now under second-generation leadership, has grown into one of the world’s leading Japanese art galleries. As the gallery opens its first exhibition at Bryant Park Place, it is only appropriate to celebrate with the most revered and recognizable designs from the floating world. We are pleased to present this exhibition as an associated program of Japan 2019.