Japanese Edo-Period Woodblock Prints

Japanese Edo-period was a harshly controlled feudal society governed for over 250 years running from 1603 to 1867. The Edo period was also a period that provided an ideal environment for the development of the art in a commercial form.During this period, political, economic and religious influence on Japan was limited. Only China and the Dutch East India Company had the right to visit Japan during this period. The period ended in 1867 with the restoration of the Imperial rule by the 15th and last shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu. The Edo period is also known as the beginning of the early modern period of Japan.

The development during the Edo period included urbanization, increased shipping of commodities, the expansion of domestic and foreign commerce, and a diffusion of trade and handicraft industries. By the mid-eighteenth century, Edo had a population of more than 1 million people. Edo was the center for the supply of food and essential urban consumer goods. The construction trades flourished, along with banking facilities and merchant associations.

Buddhism and Shinto were both still important in the Edo period. Buddhism combined with neo-Confucianism, provided standards of social behavior. Although not as powerful politically as it had been in the past, Buddhism was espoused by the upper classes around 1640. Shinto provided spiritual support to the political order and was an important tie between the individual and the community. Shinto also helped preserve a sense of national identity.

By the end of the seventeenth century, three distinct modes f creative expression flourished. After a devastating fire in 1657, an irreverent expression surfaced called woodblock printing of the “floating world” or ukiyo-e. Woodblock prints are the most widely known and admired arts of the Edo period.Woodblock prints were originally used in the eighth century in Japan for Buddhist scriptures. A designer, by the name of Tawaraya Sotatsu, used wood stamps to print designs on paper and silk. Other types of woodblock prints are made by the colors used the geographical location of the scenes, the size, and the subject matter.

In 1765, new technology made it possible to produce single sheet prints in various ranges of colors. Printmakers worked in monochrome, printed colors by hand, and then gradually came to used polychrome. Woodblock prints of the Edo period showed the seductive courtesans and kabuki actors. Their subject matter included famous romantic vistas and eventually included dramatic historical events. Each print required the collaboration of four experts: the designer, the engraver, the printer, and the publisher. The artist who drew the prints decided the color scheme of each print. The publisher usually issues a print as a commercial venture.

The artist first sketched an under-drawing that need to be approved for censorship. When approval had been obtained, the artist had to transform the drawing into a form that could function as the basis for the woodcarving. This is done by placing a sheet of thin, strong called minogami on the under-drawing. The paper constitutes an important part of the print and it is always sized. There are two main kinds of paper used for printing besides minogami: hosho and torinoko (hodomura). Hosho has rough edges called mimi-tsuki that comes from Otaki in Fukui Prefecture. Hosho is made from the bark of kozo (paper mulberry). The darker inside of the bark remains in the finished paper.The artist would then use black ink to trace the outlines of the sketch on the minogami. Next, the work is passed on to the carver who would paste the minogami paper, face down, on a dried block of cherry or pear wood and reversing the image of the block. The paper was gently rubbed, removing most of the fibers and leaving the image clearly visible on the wood. The block would be carefully carved, leaving the outlines of the drawing in relief. Different instruments were used for detail that needs to be carved. To make the colors in the final print, the ink was placed on the block. Then, a paper was placed on the block and, using a tool called baren, the printer would scrub the entire image, including the guide marks thus making the print. The baren is the soul of the printer.The baren contains a circular mat or coil of cord made of bamboo-sheath. After the carving process is finished, the color blocks and the key block are handed over to the printer who had prepared the sheets of printing paper by moistening them. The printing process would be carried out in the same order as the carving. First, the key block would be placed on the printing stand and painted with black ink. Then, a sheet of printing paper was placed on upon the block in alignment with the guide marks. Finally, the printer used the baren to rub the paper, creating an impression of the block. After followed the same procedure for the color blocks, resulting in the finished print.

The publishers of woodblock printings saw an opportunity to profit from printings of pre-modern stars. One important source for the woodblock prints was the life in the Yoshiwara quarter. In Edo, Yoshiwara quarter was a major pleasure center where teahouses and all the Geishas, courtesans and musicians were thriving. Landscape prints became an independent genre and often produced in sets of travelogue. Katsushika Hokusai was one of the main artists who developed the last achievement of woodblock print. Hokusai is well known for his landscape series, such as “Under The Wave at Kanagawa”. This landscape shows a giant wave engulfing fishing boats and Mount Fuji is the background detail. The artist’s skill and creativity often yielded designs of utmost sophistication, as well as imaginative.At the end of the Edo period, the Japanese society went through many changes. The woodblock prints began to disappear. Woodblock prints represent one of the most important achievements of the Edo period. There was no finer graphic art ever produced in the woodblock medium anywhere in the world.

Works Cited

Kleiner, Fred S., and Christin J. Mamiya. Gardners Art Through the Ages. 12th ed. Vol. 2. Belmont: Wadsworth/Thomson, 2010. Print.

Newland, Amy Reigle., and Julie Nelson. Davis. The Hotei Encyclopedia of Japanese Woodblock Prints. Amsterdam: Hotei, 2005. Print.

Parker, Deborah. “New Perspectives on Japanese Prints.” EBSCOhost. Virginia Quarterly Review, Spring 2004. Web. 9 Mar. 2010.

“Woodblock Prints in the Ukiyo-e Style | Thematic Essay | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Metmuseum.org. 2000. Web. 09 Mar. 2010. <http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/ukiy/hd_ukiy.htm&gt;.


The Influences of Hip-Hop in Today’s Society

Music is an international language understood all over the world through its rhythm and the feeling it can give a person. It defines personality and demonstrates emotions better than any other means of expression, because the music subjects are so similar to the negative and positive aspects of life in today’s society, hip-hop give people something to which they can relate. Although it is not what anyone could call “clean” or profanity and subjective free music, hip-hop has made its imprint on the kids of this generation.

When people need to gain comfort or strength, they look to things they can relate to, which provide encouragement and motivation to ease their minds and go on living life. The people that are born in this generation have experienced life’s hardships much younger than past generations and hip-hop music provide reassurance that troubles will pass. Listening to famous artists who have become successful, they talk about their struggles and difficult times. Knowing that they were able to lead good lives helps kids these days to cope with their problems, which are all so similar.

Hip-hop has its own cultural impact, because hip-hop is also a generated culture of today’s society. There are African American artists such as, Russell Simmons, who seek to build a progressive political movement among young hip-hop fans (Roach). Hip-hop was born in fire especially from the ghettos of New York. That is when hip-hop was positive, such as the creation of a loop (of beats) which became the freedom; through movement, dancers stretched within space sculpted by the break. Hip-hop back then was a way to escape the chaos in the streets (Chang, 23-24).

Then DJ’s and MC’s were created to rock memorizing poems later known as freestyles. Artists such as, the Sugar Hill Gang became a sensational smash with their “Rappers Delight” hit record and Kurtis Blow  released hip-hop’s first full-length album on a major label . During these times, the stage was set for hip-hop culture. In the 1980’s, the government’s administration was launching an attack on the welfare state, wiping out subsidies for the poor and closing down government programs. Hip-hop artist were on the counter offensive such as, The Furious Five warning: “Don’t push me ‘cause I’m close to the edge. I’m not trying not to lose my head. It’s like a jingle sometimes; it makes me wonder how I keep from going under.” After this, gangs began to form and “gangsta” tales began populating society with drunken, high, irresponsible, criminal, murderous people (or known to black Americans as “niggas”) This type of behavior became better known as reality rap and reality hip-hop (Chang, 24).

When drugs, alcohol, and guns became popular in the world, hip-hop music changed the tone of influence that is given out to society. Conversely, hip-hop music does not only allow troublesome kids to relate to the music being played. The uses of drugs, alcohol, and guns lead to several songs containing lyrics that describe shooting a black man, beating someone up, sex or general pimping and booty shaking.  Songs, such as “Just Put It in Your Mouth” by Akinyele is basically as sex song that describes exactly what the title says. The bad part of this is that it shows children that it is okay to have sex anywhere and anytime and society does not even bother censoring it, but they would censor the wrong words in the wrong song such as, Missy Elliot’s “Work It”. In her video they censored parts of her verse, “Is it worth it, let me work it I put my thing down, flip it and reverse it” Even though the world knows exactly what she meant, Missy Elliot did not even say an obscure word.

On the other hand, some hip-hop has a definite meaning such as, “Superstar Pt. Zero” By K-OS that talk about the hip-hop influence on the streets and where the energy of life comes from. Loyalty is also a big issue in many hip-hop artists’ songs because defending the people they care for and putting their loved ones’ lives before their own is most important to them. As with all performers, hip-hop artists have a lot of money, and they enjoy talking about their riches in their songs. Kids of this generation, as well, want to have chains around their necks that “bling bling” when the light strikes them, and “pinky rings [that are] worth about fifty” (Bling Bling, B.G.). If having a lot of money is a bad thing, then why does our society revolve around the producing and distributing of money? Having money is a necessity these days. Also cars and stereo systems in those cars are greatly desired in this time, both of which are very expensive. Whether the song is about bros or hoes, or “phat” beats, or “Air Force Ones”, most born in this generation enjoy the music that is displayed.

The hip-hop world is a complete evolution between “back in the day” and now similar to the world of jazz music in “Sonny’s Blues” By James Baldwin. “Sonny’s Blues” is originally a story about suffering and pain and about how different people experience these emotions and manage to overcome them. Hip-hop now relates to all the frustration and the negative effects that happen in the streets.  Graffiti is also another form of expression towards hip-hop. Public walls have been used as a prime surface for the creation and communication of ideas. Hip hop graffiti and those responsible for upholding the hip hop culture use a vast array of tools (namely the spray can and microphone) to communicate the goals of this movement. (Element)

To comprehend the agenda of a graffiti artist, it is vital to understand the history of hip-hop and wall art. Graffiti is Italian for “graffito” that means scratching made on the surface. The simple tag evolved to become what is referred to as a “throw up”. A throw up is a bicolor tag written in bubble or block letters which are filled in with one color and outlined in another. The next logical step in the evolution of hip hop graffiti was the “piece”, a highly composed mural depicting a word or words, background, characters, quotes and messages. In recent times, graffiti has evolved to include any marking made in public and has recently become the source of many property owners anger. The graffiti artists are like the urban shamans and the streets are our modern day caves. (Element)

Suffering is the main focus this society of hip-hop music. Hip-hop artists these days talk about drugs, pimping women, abusing women, and violence. Children buy into the music and become violent, misbehaving, and become unbecoming people in society.  The negative effects that today’s generation of artists have on children’s lives with subjective words like “pimpin” and “b****es”. Hip-hop is now sending out messages that men can beat their girlfriends, people can have sex anytime, and use inappropriate word to describe women and men, such as “niggas”, “b****es”, and “hoes”. Even though the language of hip-hop degrade people these words, however, do little more than sell records. It is the image that hip-hop artists represent as a whole that the youth of America buy. These words are considered tools of the musicians that helps give them an appearance of being beginner 2 gangsters, pimps, or dealers. (Roach, 1-2)

Teens that spend more time watching the sex and violence depicted in the “real” life of hip-hop music videos are more likely to practice these behaviors in real life. People should take into account that we live in a visual era and kids are affected by visual images on television and on the streets than anything else. If a kid sees some big hip-hop star on MTV or BET, with expensive cars, gorgeous and half-naked women, expensive jewelry and living the thug lifestyle, they are going to want to be just like them. Hip-hop artists decide to take their musicianship to the next level and become a “true player for real” by getting into the drug game in order to live the lifestyle that is so often projected in music videos. Too many kids are growing up without a decent education because they are dropping out to pursue a record deal, live a thug lifestyle, or choosing to become drug kingpins in order to “get paid.” (Toms, 2)

As African Americans we have been in the middle of cultural controversy around words projected in hip-hop. Hip-hop has also been creating gender battle between women and men. In hip-hop today, the way to be a man is to have power using obscure language, glorification of violence, and profound objectification and disrespect of women. This how young Black Americans get their gender messages which including their ideas about sex, dating, backstabbing, and some forms of relationship. The images of and casual references of violence and soft-porn visual are placed into the consciousness of young Black girls and boys at an early age. The lyrics of hip-hop lyrics are becoming more harmful to black girls and women in a culture that is already negative about our humanity and our overall worth. Hip-hop lyrics are also harmful to black men and boy because they encourage misogynistic attitudes and behaviors against and about women. (Cole, 90-91)

What value can there be in describing black girls and women as “ho’s”, “freaks”, “gold diggers”, “chickenheads”, and “pigeons”? What could be the value of hip-hop videos featuring half clothed women and gyrating obscenely and objects of lust? It appears that black men blame black women for treating them as part of the problem rather than as cherished friends and potential partners. Women have struggled with effects of disrespectful languages and images or many hip-hop songs. Sometimes, it is believe that men do not care how they treat women. I t is like “the system” revolves around the content and the ways of a man. In society, that perceives to be acceptable. The future of men and women has dramatically changes because of today’s society of hip-hop music and cutting the chances to build strong, healthy black families.

Given the roots of hip-hop, when did Black women become the enemy of Black male hip-hop artists and vice-versa? It seems be a never-ending battle between Black men and women. Hip-hop is claimed to be the voice of the people, but their messages shows depicting violence and hostile sexism. Kids of today’s society become more eager to be a hip-hop artist and believe it is acceptable to act how artist display in music videos. The power of words and the ideas they reflect cannot be ignored. Just as some words can motivate and teach, some can definite harm and disrespect people in the word of Hip-hop.

The “hip hop culture” has permeated popular culture in an unprecedented fashion because of its enormous cross-over appeal; the hip hop culture is a potentially great unifier of diverse populations. Although created by black youth on the street and the struggles that come along with them, hip hop’s influence has become worldwide. Hip-hop started from a freedom of expression to becoming harmful towards society. People used to gain comfort from listening to hip-hop and now it has grown to be a culture of obscure words towards women and tough act that male artists pull off. Hip-hop needs to return to the fun and creative side that is began back in the day.

Chang, Jeff. “Born in Fire: A Hip-Hop Odyssey.” UNESCO Courier July-Aug. 2000: 23-23. Print.

This is a fairly old magazine article that explains the emergence of hip-hop and the popularity of hip-hop music especially for one Jamaican immigrant with his transition from Jamaica to Bronx, New York. He learns how hip-hop is the dominant culture in society and what hip-hop really means. His influences will be useful for developing my idea for my essay because of his Jamaican culture and the learning of how things are done in the US with hip-hop music.


Works Cited

Cole, Johnnetta B. “What Hip-Hop Has Done To Black Women.” Ebony Magazine. March 2007. Print. 3 Nov. 2009. <http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=afh&AN=13087612&site=ehost-live&gt;. 

Element, Kevin. “Hard Hitting Modern Perspective on Hip Hop Graffiti.” Hip- Hop  Network – hiphop-network.com. Web. 28 Nov. 2009.

< http://www.hiphop-network.com/articles/graffitiarticles/hiphopgraffiti.asp>.

Toms, Gary. “African American Art: Influence of Hip Hop in the Community -.” Associated Content – associatedcontent.com. 30 Aug. 2006. Web. 03 Nov. 2009. <http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/54412/african_american_art_influence_of_hip.html&gt;.

Roach, Ronald. “Decoding Hip-Hop’s Cultural Impact: Scholars Are Poised to Take a Close Look at the Influence of Hip-Hop on the Social Identity, Values of Today’s Youth.” Black Issues in Higher Education 21 (2004). Print.

Comparing the Movements of Futurism and Dada

Futurism and Dadaism are two art movements of modern art. Both art movements were the first to seek change in art history.  Both movements show the way of thinking with new ideas on philosophy, morality, and art.  Artists from these movements produced strong and passionate art that shows individuality and the use of forms and structures. The most important reasons for these two movements is that they show the principles of freedom and revolt as well as the changes that are going on in the world.

Futurist used many ideas from the Cubists. The name “Futurism” was given by an Italian poem by the name of Filippo Tommaso Marinette in October 1908. Like Die Brucke, the Futurists aimed to create a new and peaceful era. Thee Futurists troubled for the destruction of museums, libraries, and culture. They were the speed of modern technology.  Futurist art mainly focuses on the motion of time and space.  An example of “motion of time and space” is Giacomo Balla “Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash” His art piece shows the dog in motion with its owner. Balla uses the effect of motion by repeating shapes of the dog’s tail and legs.  Another example of “motion of time and space” is Carlo Carra “Red Horseman” Carra shows the horse and its rider in an abstracted manner. The approach to portraying motion is similar to Duchamp’s “Nude Descending Down A Staircase” by showing parts of the body in multiple stages of movement.  A couple of months later in December 1908, “The Futurist Manifesto” were published. It gained most of its notary through its front-page publication of the Parisian magazine in February 1909. Last year, 2009 was the centennial year of Futurism’s founding and was celebrated in its birthplace of Italy.

Fortunato Depero, an artist who was best known for his contributions to the Futurism movement. His career made him Futurism’s common denominator. His masterpieces would not be in his paintings, but his architecture. It is because Depero’s Futurist vision is now ubiquitous. We are living in his reconstructed universe.

Futurism began as a literary movement, but soon spread through visual arts, cinema, music, theatre, and architecture.  An architect named Antonio Sant’Elia expressed his ideas in his drawings, such as the “La Citta’ Nuova”, but latter died n the First World War Many Futurist architects used Roam imperial/classical aesthetics patterns in their artworks. Futurist buildings were built in 1920-1940 including railway stations and public buildings. Futurist music ignored tradition and introduced experimental sounds. Francesco Balilla Pratella joined the Futurist movement in 1910 and wrote the Manifesto of Futurist Musician. Futurism was one of several 20th century movements in art music. Futurism as a literary movement made its official debut with F.T. Marinetti’s Manifesto of Futurism in 1909. Poetry was prominent in Futurism literature. Theater and film also has an important place within Futurism. Works in this genre have scenes that are few sentences long, have an emphasis on ridiculous humor, and attempt to shame the deep-rooted traditions via parody and other techniques.

Futurist played a role in the development of Dadaism. Dada movement began as a response to the carnage of World War I from 1916-1924. Dada is the reaction to what other saw as nothing and was part of the World War. Dadaism would become a major influence of art and artists of the remainder of the 20th century. Dada received its name, according to Richard Huelsenbeck, a German artist living in Zurich, when he and Hugo Ball came upon the word in a French-German dictionary. Ball noted that “Dada is ‘yes, yes’ in Rumanian, ‘rocking horse’ and ‘hobby horse’ in French.

Dada was independent in New York, but first emerged in Paris, Berlin, Cologne, and other cities. The founder of the Dada movement was Andre’ Breton and explained that Dada is a state of mind. The creation of Dada is traditional, does not have definite ideas, and is not right n or wrong. Dada is very influential and powerful by attacking convention and logic. Jean (Hans) Arp “Collage Arranged According to the Laws of Chance” is an example of “chance”. He shows the use of chance by compositing images together. He took some pieces of paper and tore them into roughly shaped squares, dropped them on a sheet of paper on the floor, and glues them how they were placed on the floor. Dada is often referred to as “nihilistic art” because it was often had conflicts with many contemporary values.

Several techniques in Dadaism were developed including: collage, photomontage, assemblage, and ready-mades. A collage is pasting of pieces of paper are put together into one composition. Photomontage is used by Berlin Dadaists who used scissors and glue rather than paintbrushes and paints to put together a work of art. Assemblage is a three-dimensional variation of a collage. Ready-mades were first used by Duchamp, which were objects already made and used in a work of art or composition.

Dada was not just in the visual and literary arts, but it influence reached into sound and music. Kurt Schwitters invented sound poems and composers such as, Erwin Schulhoff, Hans Heusser and Albert Savinio wrote Dada music. African and jazz music was common at Dada gatherings, signaling a return to nature and naive primitivism.

In-between the era of Dadaism, there was Neo-Dadaism, which is a step between abstract Expressionism and Pop Art. Neo-Dada artists include, Francis Alÿs, Gabriel Orozco, and Rirkrit Tiravanija, just to mention a few. The “original” Dada rebellion against work is probably why Dada is narrated as adolescent, interstitial sidebars to art history’s master narrative. Neo-Dada’s ironic work imitation forms a set of running techniques for how to live as an artist in a critical way.

Both art movements were short lived, but had their influence during their lifetimes. Dada outlasted Futurism because it did not have that same weakness and it did not take too long before even the Dadaists themselves to dislike Dada because the art was always secondary to the emotion. Though Dadaism was from all over the world, Futurism reflected the energy and changes of the nineteenth century in its birthplace of Zurich from refugees of World War I.


Works Cited

“Dada.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. 27 Mar. 2010. Web. 02 Apr. 2010. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dadaism&gt;.

“Futurism.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. 30 Mar. 2010. Web. 02 Apr. 2010. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Futurism&gt;.

Keats, Jonathan. “REVOLUTIONARY ROAD.” Forbes (2009): 82-87. Academic Seach Elite. Web. 31 Mar. 2010.

Kleiner, Fred S., and Christin J. Mamiya. Gardner’s Art through the Ages. 12th ed. Vol. 2. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth, 2005. Print.

Molesworth, Helen. “From Dada to Neo-Dada and Back Again.” 105 (2003): 177-81. Academic Search Elite. Web. 31 Mar. 2010.

Townsend, Christopher. “The Future of Futurism.” Art Monthly 329 (2009): 5-8. Print.

Trachtman, Paul. “Dada.” Smithsonian 37.2 (2006): 68-76. Print.