How to Look at Japanese Art

Stephen Addiss, Author, Audrey Yoshiko Seo, With
Stephen Addiss, Author, Audrey Yoshiko Seo, With ABRAMS $19.95 (144p) ISBN 978-0-8109-2640-0
Reviewed on: 03/04/1996
Release date: 03/01/1996
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This small volume, organized around six important categories of Japanese visual arts--ceramics, sculpture, painting, calligraphy, prints and gardens--has fashioned itself as an introduction to Japanese aesthetic sensibilities. Its format roughly follows the textbook norm, covering the time line from Jomon ceramics (1500 B.C.E.) to current artists, with examples from each category. Addiss directs the viewer in looking at each work, and poses unthreatening questions both within the text and as a ""summary quiz"" for each chapter. The text is high-school level or, perhaps, freshman-year humanities requirement for science majors. The descriptions of the works, and the rhetoric Addiss uses to engage ""beginning viewers,"" presuppose a naivete that flirts with simplemindedness. The historical information is accurate and momentarily illuminating, but there is not much of it. In fact, the main purpose here is apparently to incite further exploration, but it does seem that a reader truly interested in Japanese art would just bypass it for a richer, more complete account. (May)
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