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OPENS JUNE 17
If the name Kawasaki suggests motorcycles to you rather than the fluid lines and rich colors of Japanese woodblock prints, that’s exactly why this exhibition has come to Washington. The largely industrial city, a neighbor of Tokyo, would like potential tourists to know that it holds a first-rate collection of ukiyo-e (“pictures of the floating world”) by such masters as Katsushika Hokusai, Kitagawa Utamaro, and Utagawa Hiroshige (also the focus of an upcoming Phillips Collection show). The second half of this two-part presentation contains approximately 125 paintings and prints, most of them notable for skill, nuance, and elegant compositions whose framing could be termed cinematic. (The subsequent Japanese mastery of both film and comics is foretold by this artwork.) The traditional subjects of ukiyo-e, which flourished during the peace and prosperity of the 1615– 1867 Edo period, include beautiful women, Kabuki actors, famed landscapes, and street scenes. Exhibited in low light to limit fading of the fragile work, the images range from the everyday entertainments of The Charity Sumo Tournament in Edo to the eroticism of Yamauba and Kintaro: Hair Combing to such awestruck views of the power of the newly discovered West as American Steamship. Among the better-known pieces on display are Katsukawa Shunsho’s Nakamura Tomijuro as Musume at Dojoji Temple; Hokusai’s Warm Breeze, Fair Weather (one of several selections from the artist’s Thirty-Six Views of Mt. Fuji series); and Hiroshige’s Sudden Shower over Ohashi Bridge at Aatake (from One Hundred Famous Views of Edo). (The Plum Garden at Kameido, also from that series, is pictured.) The show is on view from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, to Tuesday, July 12, at the Japan Information and Culture Center, Embassy of Japan, 1155 21st St. NW. Free. (202) 238-6949.