LEWISTON – An exhibition of woodblock prints highlighting the roles, variety and importance of kimono patterns in the Japanese genre called ukiyo-e will open with a public reception at 7 p.m. Friday, April 4, at the Bates College Museum of Art.

“The Kimono and Traditional Japanese Culture: Investigating Kimono through Ukiyo-e in the Bates College Art Museum Collection,” curated by Bates senior Hisakiku Abe of Concord, Mass., will run through July 19 in the museum’s Synergy Seminar Gallery.

Opening at the same time is the college’s annual Senior Art Exhibition, which shows through May 24 in the Bates Gallery.

Abe assembled the kimono exhibit from the museum’s collection of ukiyo-e, which refers to the dominant form of artistic printmaking in Japan from the 17th into the 19th centuries.

The exhibition was spurred by a donation of 20 ukiyo-e prints by Douglas J. Macko, a member of the Bates class of 1965. Abe was chosen to process the new prints and assemble the exhibit, in part, because of her experience working in the Japanese art department at the Peabody-Essex Museum in Salem, Mass.

She looked through many different prints before discovering a strand that linked some of them together. “I was just looking at which prints would be the most visually appealing, and in a lot of them, the kimonos were the most vibrant part,” Abe said.

The exhibit consists of 11 ukiyo-e woodblock prints that depict kimonos and four actual kimonos that belong to Abe’s mother and grandmother.

“My parents are Japanese, but I was born here,” Abe said. “My mom and my grandmother are both very traditional and they own a lot of kimonos. So I’ve grown up seeing them wearing kimonos and I wanted to know more about it.”

When the prints were made, the kimono was an “everyday sort of dress,” according to Abe. The kimonos are seasonal, so certain patterns, like flowers, are worn only at certain times of the year. The kimono today is a more formal type of dress, Abe noted.

“Her work has given us an immediate gain in our understanding of these objects,” said Anthony Shostak, the museum’s educational curator. “After viewing hundreds of images, Hisa recognized that the prints could tell a story about social meaning woven into the images through kimonos.”

After Bates, Abe will attend the master’s program at Sotheby’s Institute of Art in New York.

Go and do

Open to the public at no cost, the Bates College Museum of Art is at 75 Russell St. Regular hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For more information, call 786-6158 or log on to www.bates.edu/museum.xml.

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