Theater of the Sky

This exhibit brings a masterpiece Japanese print (ukiyo-e) to life for the 21st century. Four interpretive panels introduce twin manias-for theater and for kites-in 19th-century Japan and reproduce a triptych from 1864, Ika Nobori Agaru Serai (Kite-flying Competition in the Blue Sky). The woodblock print, by Utagawa Yoshiharu, shows the faces of 21 leading actors from kabuki (popular) theater on kites, each accompanied by hiragana and kanji boasting of their popularity with their star-struck fans. A Daruma image presides over this aerial competition, and a full-body yakko kite hovers near Mt. Fuji.

A fifth interpretive panel introduces Mikio Toki, who has become one of the finest kite makers in 21st-century Japan. Scott Skinner, renowned Japanese kite and kite print collector, commissioned Toki-san to paint each image of the actors and the Daruma on 22 full-size (3'x2') kites; a yakko kite accompanies the Edo-style rectangular kites. Toki faithfully reproduces these 19th-century stars of the stage with a contemporary graphic twist, combining his painting skill with a passion and respect for the traditional craft of the Japanese kite maker. A salute to the vibrancy of Japanese artistic tradition-and a special opportunity for kite enthusiasts to appreciate the work of a contemporary kite master.

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