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Japanese Art Deco at the Seattle Asian Art Museum

Japanese Art Deco at the Seattle Asian Art Museum
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A couple of weeks ago I had the chance to preview the new exhibition at Seattle Art Museum's Asian Art Museum, Deco Japan: Shaping Art and Culture, 1920-1945. I was especially excited to see this show when I found out that it was the same exhibition that I'd dreamed about seeing ever since I wrote about it on my own website two years ago. At that time Deco Japan was traveling the country, but didn't have plans to stop in Seattle. I'm so glad that it finally made it here.

The Art Deco style movement in Japan came about after the cities of Tokyo and Yokohama were destroyed during the Kanto Earthquake of 1923. Art Deco emerged during the reconstruction period, and according to the Asian Art Museum, "captured the modernization of the nation, its advancements in technology and industry, and the latest trends in fashion and design." The exhibition collection features nearly 200 objects ranging from paintings, sculpture, and items for the home to advertising, film, and fashion.

Some of the identifying Art Deco style design elements are the use of vibrant colors, geometric shapes, and streamlined designs. The aesthetic celebrates modernity and coincided with a new "mass consumer culture that was closely aligned with the more liberated, modern social roles adopted by Japanese women." Kendall H. Brown, curator of Deco Japan and author of the exhibition catalogue, summarized the qualifications for being a Japanese "moga" (modern girl) into descriptions like conspicuous consumption of Western food and drink, devotion to Parisian and Hollywood fashion, and "offering one's lips to any man who is useful, even if he is bald or ugly, but keeping one's chastity because 'infringement of chastity' lawsuits are out of style."

Deco Japan: Shaping Art and Culture, 1920-1945 will be on view at the Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park through October 19, 2014.

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