Black and White in Dialogue Ikko Tanaka Shigeo


Black and White in Dialogue Ikko Tanaka Shigeo
Japanese Posters Today
Black and White in Dialogue
A Fascination with Writing
Three Great Masters
The trends of the past continue to prevail in the
contemporary poster, in which the actual advertising
message is still of secondary importance. Instead,
it’s all about conveying a specific identity through
corporate communications, which in turn derive their
impact from the decidedly individualistic touch of the
In Japanese philosophy, black and white form an
existential contrast that encompasses all of life:
day and night, life and death. A poster style is still
widespread today that uses exclusively black and
white — a tribute to the calligraphic tradition as well
as a conscious rejection of the usual colourful imagery
proliferating in the public space.
While in the sixties, artists relied on the use of
purely Latin script as a way to take part in international
modernism, the eighties saw a deliberate reversion
to Japan’s own writing tradition. In Fumihiko
Enokido’s posters, lively calligraphy gives rise to
a lyrical appearance, while today many designers
confidently play variations on Latin typography and
Japanese characters.
Shigeo Fukuda
Ikko Tanaka
Kazumasa Nagai
Shigeo Fukuda (1932 - 2009) graduated from the Tokyo National University of Fine
Arts and Music in 1956 with a degree in design. Fukuda’s radically reduced formal
vocabulary and his concentration on a few broad colour planes predestined him for
designing pictograms. Reduction is the rule of the day in his posters, in terms of
content, his works sparkle with Dadaist wit, optical illusions and surreal alienation,
which ensure them a high recognition value.
Ikko Tanaka (1930 - 2002) left his hometown of Nara to study at the Kyoto City
College of Fine Arts. His poster designs reflect a thorough knowledge of Bauhaus
theories while also drawing on the Japanese pictorial tradition. Tanaka’s international
success can be attributed to this virtuoso interplay between Western and Eastern
visual idioms. His versatile design approach secured him jobs from both the cultural
and commercial sectors.
Kazumasa Nagai (b. 1929) attended the sculpture class at the Tokyo National University
of Fine Arts and Music. Nagai’s early works were imbued with the spirit of international
modernism. Starting in the eighties, he began to favor a more ornamental and figurative
mode of design. His imaginative, highly original animal figures before a flat ground
are emblematic of the symbiosis of human and nature that is expressed in the nature
religion of Shintoism.
Fumihiko Enokido
Onao / wa shi (1984)
Shigeo Fukuda
Victory 1945 (1975)
Ikko Tanaka
The 200th anniversary of Sharaku 1794 - 1994 /
The Mainichi Newspapers (1995)
Kazumasa Nagai
’89 Himeiji Shirotopia Exhibition (1988)
Masami Shimizu
Should I buy something? Vivre (1992)
Katsuhiko Shibuya
Shiseido (2012)
Masami Shimizu
Shopping cheers you up / Vivre (1992)
Shigeo Fukuda
Shigeo Fukuda: Illustrick 412 / GGG / Ginza Graphic
Gallery (1986)
Ikko Tanaka
Nihon Buyo / UCLA / Asian Performing Arts Institute 1981 /
Los Angeles / Washington DC / New York (1981, Reprinted
in 1990)
Kazumasa Nagai
Kazumasa Nagai Exhibition (1991)
Japanese Poster Artists
Entering the Modern Era
A Geometric Vocabulary of Forms
The Expressive Power of Line
The Idea of a Thing
The Filled Void
The Intoxication of Colour
Transparency and Light
Japan’s rapid development after 1950 into a leading
economic power and consumer society meant that
a new kind of visual communication was needed.
First-generation graphic designers such as Yusaku
Kamekura took their cue from the modernist style
in the West, and displayed a rational, universally
comprehensible approach, a reduction in shapes
and colours, as well as the use of Latin writing in
their works.
An inclination toward non-perspectival, twodimensional renderings and a penchant for formal and
functional abstraction still mark Japanese vernacular
design today — elements that can be traced back
to the historically important genre of the woodcut.
Variations on the circle found in poster art can also
be seen as part of this tradition. A prime example
is Yusaku Kamekura’s poster for the 1964 Summer
Olympics in Tokyo.
The Japanese woodcut — ukiyo-e — was discovered
and enthusiastically received by the West after the
economic opening of Japan in 1854. It influenced
artists at the turn of the 19th century, giving birth to
a stylistic mode known as Japonism. The technique
of woodblock printing makes line and plane the main
focus of pictorial composition. As a design element,
line sometimes draws strongly on the expressive,
realist tradition, but can also be used in a gestural and
abstract manner.
Concentration on the essentials, on the idea of a thing,
shapes Japanese poster design even when concrete
motifs are represented. By merely suggesting a
subject, the artist leaves the viewer room to interpret
what he sees and to charge it with his own meaning.
This allows not only for rational understanding but also
for the freedom to emotionally access a subject.
The metaphysics of emptiness, which is also
understood as an expression of silence, is closely
linked with Japanese Zen Buddhism. The lacuna is
always to be read ambiguously as a space promising
opportunities for meditation, concentration, time and
peace. Poster design exhibits a self-assured handling
of free space and a compelling interplay between
pattern and ground.
The posters of Tadanori Yokoo display an unrestrained
delight in resplendent colour, seeming at first to belie
the stereotype of Japanese asceticism. Tadanori’s
works are typical of a poster culture that ranges
between the poles of meditative tranquility and strident
provocation. He began in the sixties to defy intellectual
concepts in graphic design, and deliberately set out
to shock viewers with his imaginative posters,
rife with quotations.
Japanese poster designers are masters of the sublime
use of colour as a luminous, light-infused material.
The vibrant compositions of Mitsuo Katsui, Koichi Sato
and Shin Matsunaga open up versatile associations,
alluding to psychic and mystical realms. Purification
and unity with the universe resonate as additional
layers of meaning in these atmospheric mood pictures.
Matsunaga Design Inc. / Shin Matsunaga, Katsumi Yamada,
Photo by: Yojiro Adachi
Season (1988)
Ken Miki
Wilderness / The place where civilization is forgotten, where
man forgets himself. (1993)
Tadanori Yokoo
Japanese Culture – The Fifty Postwar Years 1945 - 1995 (1995)
Ken Miki, Shigeyuki Sakaida
Snow / Hokusetu Snow Mountain (ca. 2002)
– Cherry Blossom and Asceticism
14.10.2014 – 30.3.2015 (Closed on Tuesdays)
10am – 8pm (Free Admission)
d-mart • HKDI and IVE (Lee Wai Lee) • 3 King Ling Road • Tseung Kwan O
HKDI Gallery
HKDI Gallery is dedicated to the advancement of design education in Hong Kong through the exposition of
international exhibitions and contemporary issues on design. HKDI Gallery aims to engage the design education
community and the general public in the advancement of a new awareness of design through the examination of
the history, theory and practices of design, and from close interactive studies of the design objects themselves.
About the Exhibition
Japan fascinates with a unique poster culture. Its subtle poetry, mystical messages and glowing colours are just
as captivating as the cheeky provocation and rejection of all the accepted rules of visual communication. The
exhibition contains over two hundred pieces of poster works that represent the artistic statement and image
advertising development in Japan from 1950s to the present day. Highlights include works by three old masters,
Shigeo Fukuda, Kazumasa Nagai and Ikko Tanaka. A collaboration with Museum of Design Zurich.
An exhibition by
Museum of Design Zurich
Supported by
Media Partners
Yusaku Kamekura
Nikkor lens (1960)
Pedro Yamashita
America / Russia / No more sub-critical nuclear experiments
Yusaku Kamekura
Tokyo 1964 (1964)