Japanese Prints: The Psychedelic Seventies

The first World’s Fair held in East Asia, Expo ‘70 in Osaka, marked the beginning of an extraordinary period of prosperity for Japan that lasted over a decade. To a greater extent than ever before, Japan participated in the development of the global art styles of the time—in particular, the mind-bending motifs and chromatic verve of psychedelic art. Japanese fashion designers showed their work in Paris, Japanese architects won major commissions around the world, and Japanese graphic design appeared on album covers of internationally renowned music groups such as Santana and Miles Davis.

The brilliant colors, strong design sense, and exuberant vitality typical of the 1970s also appear in prints. During this time, the range of media employed by Japanese print artists expanded to include not only the woodblock and stencil prints that had been dominant in the previous decade, but also silkscreen, etching, and lithography. Works such as Yokoo Tadanori’s 1974 silkscreen, pictured above, resonate with the tenor of the age, melding Buddhist iconography with an electric palette. Among the new, younger artists who rose to prominence were a number of women, part of a gradually increasing trend toward gender equality in the arts. Many of the artists featured in this exhibition—including Tadanori, Takeda Hideo, and Oda Mayumi—are still creating prints today.