Senior to Share Family’s Collection of Prints in Upcoming Exhibition
Zoë Zwegat to present “Kuchi-e Woodblock Prints: Tradition and Modernity” in Sussel Gallery
WOOSTER, Ohio — Zoë Zwegat, a senior anthropology major with a minor in art history, will share works from her family's extensive collection of Japanese woodblock prints in The College of Wooster Art Museum's Sussel Gallery April 1-13. The exhibition, titled "Kuchi-e Woodblock Prints: Tradition and Modernity," features 27 selections from her family's collection. The opening reception will be held on Thursday, April 3, from 6:30-8 p.m. with a gallery talk by Zwegat at 7 p.m.
"I contacted Kitty McManus Zurko (director and curator of The College of Wooster Art Museum) almost two years ago to see if we could show part of my family's collection," says Zwegat. "It is a great teaching tool in that it illustrates how art is a reflection of culture. In this collection, the prints depict how government affected daily life in the midst of a major cultural transition in Japan under the rule of Emperor Meiji (1867–1912)."
This transitional period, marked by a rapid cultural change influenced by Western ideas, is reflected in woodblock prints (known as kuchi-e), which provide an accurate representation of the synthesis of traditional and modern ideas that occurred at the end of the Meiji Era (1895–1912). Kuchi-e are frontispiece prints included as inserts in novels and in the literary magazine Bungei kurabu. Most images accompanied short stories, but some kuchi-e were stand-alone inserts solely intended to increase the value of the publication.
"The kuchi-e selected for this exhibition present three major themes relevant to my Senior Independent Study thesis (Wooster's nationally acclaimed undergraduate research experience) — Westernization, women's social roles, and national identity," says Zwegat. "Each theme is representative of the major transition that occurred in Japanese culture and conveys a message supported by the government discourse of the era."
Zwegat's father started collecting the prints just after graduating from college in the early 1970s. "He became interested in prints from the Meiji Era that depicted cultural change caused by Japan's opening to the West following two centuries of isolation," says Zwegat. "Over the past 40 years, he has built a comprehensive collection that I was excited to use as a component of my senior thesis. I wanted the exhibition to go along with my Independent Study, which focused on the role of women and national identity in Meiji Japan."
The exhibition, which is free and open to the public, can be viewed Tuesday through Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 1-5 p.m. Additional information is available by phone (330-263-2388) or online.