Condition: Excellent

Iwami Reika | Japanese Born Female Engraver – Tokyo | Japanese Art | Entitled: Tune of Water – T (35 of a series 50 with the same title). Dated: 1971

Iwami’s prints are abstract but reference natural elements and emphasize the natural quality of the wood grain in the wood blocks from which she prints. In addition to the wood grain, her prints typically also suggest water and, less often, other elements and she often employs embossing and gold leaf: Although, not landscapes in the conventional sense, Iwami represents the elemental qualities of earth, fire, water, wind, and sky through texture.

Offered is a color woodblock print; gold leaf, black pigment, mica, and embossing on medium thick, slightly textured cream-iridescent colored paper. An elegant image in black with gold leaf and beautiful embossed detail. Sited in The Modern Japanese Print – An Appreciation by James Michener. Excellent / Archived Condition. Signed, Dated, Titled and Edition in pencil, self-published. Dimensions: 10-3/4” w x 16-0” L; (Sheet: 20-0” x 13-7/8”).

Additional Information on the Artist—

Iwami Reika | 岩見禮花  いわみれいか | 1927

Iwami Reika, pioneer in the post-WWII male-dominated world of Japanese print-making, is the first Japanese woman print artist “to achieve the same status and worldwide recognition as male artists.” While born in Tokyo, her early years were spent on the Island of Kyūshu.  Returning to Tokyo, but unable to afford regular art classes, she attended Sunday art courses, including printmaking, at Tokyo’s Bunka Gakuin College, graduating in 1955.  Before coming to printmaking she tried oil painting and studied doll-making under the “National Treasure” Hori Ryūjo 堀柳女 (1897–1984). By the mid-1950s, Iwami had “discovered a natural affinity for the paper, wood, and watercolor, and felt that she had found her artistic niche in the execution of woodblock prints.”

In 1953 she began exhibiting prints with the Nihon Hanga Kyōkai (Japanese Print Association), becoming a member in 1955 and remaining a member until today.   In 1957, with Yoshida Chizuko (b. 1924) and others, she co-founded the Joryū Hanga Kyōkai (Women’s Print Association), an association of nine professional women printmakers.  She exhibited every year since 1957 with the College Women’s Association of Japan print show in Tokyo and, starting in the late 1950s, her work has been included in numerous print biennales.  However, it was not until 1962, when James Michener included her work in his seminal book The Modern Japanese Print – An Appreciation, which included, in its original limited edition form, a portfolio of ten original prints, that she gained world-wide notice.

Iwami’s earlier works were geometrical abstractions, employing some color, but starting in about 1970 her work became less abstract, adopting a distinctive vocabulary representing the natural world, particularly of water.  Her pallet also moved to primarily black, white and shades of gray enhanced with application of gold and silver foils and the physically demanding technique of embossing.  All of these elements remain in her current work.

Iwami’s work of the past 40 years is illustrative of J. Thomas Rimer’s comments on sosaku hanga that even in their abstraction, creative prints still maintained a sense of “muted realism” and “a sense of craft rooted in instinctive apprehension of the power, the wholeness, of nature itself.”

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