Garo and the Birth of Alternative Manga

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"Garo and the Birth of Alternative Manga"
Lecture by Ryan Holmberg
Nov. 30, 2017, 5:30 pm
Honolulu Museum of Art School
In collaboration with the exhibition "The Disasters of Peace: Social Discontent in the Manga of Tsuge Tadao and Katsumata Susumu" (Honolulu Museum of Art, November 30, 2017 - April 15, 2018)

From its founding in Tokyo in 1964 to its temporary demise in 1998, the monthly manga anthology magazine Garo was a beacon for
experimentalism in Japanese comics. This talk will survey the early years of the magazine, looking at its roots in the rental library "kashihon" culture of the previous decade, its relationship to contemporary political issues ranging from school curricula debates to the Vietnam War, and finally its embrace of a new generation of artists influenced by Pop Art, New Wave cinema, and the visual culture of the Japanese Empire.

About the exhibition "The Disasters of Peace:"
Beyond manga’s occasional veneer of endearing innocence, the genre of gekiga (literally, “dramatic pictures”), which began in the mid 1950s and went mainstream in the late 1960s, addressed an adult audience and grappled with ethically complex social issues. Through monthly manga anthologies such as Garo, a faction of avant-garde manga artists with gritty, emotionally expressive styles and resolutely anti-authoritarian tones contributed to a new era of humanitarian concern and social activism.

The Disasters of Peace ironically alludes to The Disasters of War (1810–1820), a suite of prints produced by Spanish painter and printmaker Francisco Goya (1746–1828) in response to the horrific violence that he witnessed during the Peninsular War of 1808–1814. In a similar way, the works of Tsuge Tadao (b. 1941) and Katsumata Susumu (1943–2007) displayed here reveal Japan’s plight during the demilitarized era that followed the Pacific War (1941–1945) and the Allied Occupation (1945–1952). Financial hardship, moral confusion, and the lingering shame of military defeat compelled individuals to behave in questionable ways, while large industries, myopically focused upon economic recovery, indulged in unfair labor practices and overlooked environmental hazards. In Garo and other manga publications, Tsuge and Katsumata drew attention to such crises and encouraged public debate about them. At a time when many Americans are similarly concerned about social equality, the future of our planet, and other serious subjects, may these artists inspire thoughtful conversations among ourselves.

About the manga exhibition series at the Honolulu Museum of Art:
Manga— Japanese graphic novels or comics—play a vital
role in contemporary Japanese culture. Not only do they
enjoy immense popularity (annual sales within Japan have
risen to more than two billion US dollars); internationally,
they have become the centerpiece of the “Cool Japan
Initiative,” the Japanese government’s current campaign to
promote its status as a cultural superpower. Manga’s
popularity partly arises from the medium’s historical
connection with Japanese woodblock prints and paintings
(ukiyo-e), which were produced in Japan throughout the Edo
period (1615–1868). The term manga, in fact, was coined by
the renowned ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760–
1849).

Since 2014, in its mission to expand and significantly
enhance its renowned collection of Japanese works on
paper, the museum has acquired several examples of
Japanese manga by artists such as Maruo Suehiro (b. 1956)
and Anno Moyoco (b. 1971). In 2016, the Honolulu Museum
of Art furthermore presented "Visions of Gothic Angels:
Japanese Manga by Takaya Miou" (August 25, 2016–January
15, 2017), the first in a series of exhibitions that explore the art-historical importance of manga. That series now
continues with "The Disasters of Peace: Social Discontent
in the Manga of Tsuge Tadao and Katsumata Susumu."

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