The fashion and culture of the 20s and 30s aren’t typically associated with Japan. You wouldn’t immediately conjure up images of Japanese flappers with bright red lips and edgy bobs, and yet, the Art Deco movement made a significant impact on women there.
The emergence of a modern, cosmopolitan woman in Japan during this period is particularly intriguing, as it occurred during a period of considerable social and cultural upheaval.
What had been an Emperor-run Oligarchy was fast-becoming a more Democratic society, and it was as if the dramatic change was palpable to these women, who wanted to reflect their enthusiasm in their attire as well as their attitudes.
These modern girls or “moga” are the centerpiece of the “Deco Japan: Shaping Art and Culture” exhibit that will be on display at the Japan Society in New York City starting on Friday, March 16th.
Moga were the first fiercely independent women in Japan. They went to work, abandoned traditional kimonos for modern styles and eschewed tradition pretty much entirely – dating whom they chose and how they spent their free time. Clearly, the woman featured in Tipsy (Horoyoi) is a perfect example, enjoying a martini that I’m guessing wasn’t her first.
In addition to the beautiful paintings on display, the exhibit, curated by Dr. Kendall Brown, features an array of beautifully designed examples of metalwork, ceramics, lacquer, glass, furniture, jewelry, sculpture and evocative ephemera such as sheet music, posters, postcards, prints and photography.
Kobayakawa Kiyoshi (1899-1948), Tipsy (Horoyoi), first print from the series Styles of Contemporary Make-up (Kindai jiseisô no uchi), 1930. Ink and pigment on paper, 20 1/2 x 12 in.
Artist unknown, “Literary Song, The Trouble with Bright Eyes,” 1929. Color lithograph, ink on paper, 10 3/8 × 7 7/16 in.
Exhibit runs Friday, March 16th through Sunday, June 10th
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