Art In America

“Life of Cats: Selections from the Hiraki Ukiyo-e Collection”

at Japan Society,
333 East 47th Street

Long before the Hello Kitty era, cats were popularly depicted in the ukiyo-e woodblock prints of Japan's Edo period (1615-1868). In this selection of 120 works from the Hiraki Ukiyo-e Foundation in Tokyo and several U.S. collections, felines are regarded in turn as furry friends, good luck totems and evil spirits. A star of the genre is Utagawa Kuniyoshi, a well-known cat lover (his apprentices attested to the throng constantly orbiting his studio), whose wordplay-heavy works present playful incarnations of the animals performing human actions and as comical caricatures of kabuki actors. Kuniyoshi's pieces exemplify the lighthearted theme and technical proficiency of the master printmakers' works on view.

 

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