Oct. 30, 2017

Media contacts:

Lesa Griffith

Tel: 808-532-8712

Adele Balderston
Tel: 808-532-8727


Artists explore inhumanity and hardship brought about by social upheaval; programming includes free lectures by visiting manga expert Ryan Holmberg 

WHAT: The Disasters of Peace: Social Discontent in the Manga of Tsuge Tdao and Katsumata Susumu
WHEN: Nov. 30, 2017–April 15, 2018
WHERE: Honolulu Museum of Art, 900 S Beretania St, Honolulu
INFO: 808-532-8700, (publishable)
High-res images available on request.

HONOLULU, HAWAI‘I—Continuing its exploration of Japanese manga, the Honolulu Museum of Art presents The Disasters of Peace: Social Discontent in the Manga of Tsuge Tadao and Katsumata Susumu Nov. 30 to April 15.

These two manga artists look at the inhumanity and hardship that communities are forced to endure during periods of dramatic social upheaval. The graphic novels of Tsuge Tadao (b. 1941) and Katsumata Susumu (1943–2007) capture the financial desperation, moral confusion, and shame of military defeat that marked postwar Japan. 

While manga may be perceived as a medium of cuteness and innocence, it also includes the adult-oriented genre known as gekiga—“dramatic pictures”—that began in the mid-1950s and grapples with ethically complex social issues. 

Tsuge Tadao's work displays a deep understanding of cinematography and adopts the conventions of film noir to convey a dark, gritty mood. Shadows pervade his scenes, and figures are often portrayed in silhouette. The crisp linework of Katsumata Susumu's imagery, by contrast, often has a more innocent, lighthearted feel, but he punctuates his stories with tense, dramatic moments—when a water imp assaults an unsuspecting human, for example, or when a worker at a nuclear power plant is overwhelmed with claustrophobia—at which point the figures are grotesquely distorted. Like many artists in the genre of gekiga, Tsuge and Katsumata rebelled against the concept of craftsmanship in the hope of achieving a more powerful, psychological realism.

The exhibition title is a play on Spanish artist Francisco Goya’s famed The Disasters of War print series that he created in response to the horrors committed during the Peninsular War of 1808 to 1814.

The works of Tsuge and Katsumata on view in The Disasters of Peace similarly look at Japan’s plight—war was over but the ensuing hardship drove people to desperate acts, while industries focused on economic recovery exploited labor and overlooked environmental hazards. 

Peacetime isn’t so peaceful. Both artists drew attention to such crises and encouraged public debate about them. With issues such as social injustice, climate change, and nuclear threats crowding the headlines, the work of these two manga pioneers strikes contemporary chords.

“At a time when many Americans are similarly concerned about social inequality, the future of our planet, and other serious subjects,” says Stephen Salel, the Robert F. Lange Curator of Japanese art and curator of the exhibition, “I hope that these artists inspire thoughtful conversations among ourselves.”

The exhibition includes a residency by manga scholar Dr. Ryan Holmberg, during which he will give these free lectures and talks.

Fukushima Devil Fish: Katsumata Susumu’s Antinuclear Manga by Ryan Holmberg

Nov. 29, 4:30-6:15pm • Free
University of Hawai‘i–Mānoa, Hamilton Library, Room 301

Garo and the Birth of Alternative Manga by Ryan Holmberg

Nov. 30, 5:30-7 p.m. • Free 
Honolulu Museum of Art School, Room 101

From its founding in Tokyo in 1964 to its temporary demise in 1998, the monthly manga anthology magazine Garo was a beacon for experimentalism in Japanese comics. This talk will survey the early years of the magazine, looking at its roots in the rental library "kashihon" culture of the previous decade, its relationship to contemporary political issues ranging from school curricula debates to the Vietnam War, and finally its embrace of a new generation of artists influenced by Pop Art, New Wave cinema, and the visual culture of the Japanese Empire.

PechaKucha Honolulu 20 x 20 presentation:
Butter-Stinking Manga: The American Influence on Early Japanese Comics

Dec. 1, 7-9pm • Free
Honolulu Museum of Art School, outdoor courtyard
Holmberg is in the lineup at this informative and lively quarterly event that has creatives presenting 20 images for 20 seconds each about their projects or areas of expertise.

Ryan Holmberg is an Academic Associate of the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Culture in Norwich, UK. As a freelance art historian and critic, he is a frequent contributor to The Comics Journal, Artforum International, and Art in America. As an editor and translator of manga, he has worked with Breakdown Press, Drawn & Quarterly, Retrofit Comics, PictureBox Inc, and New York Review Comics. He is also the author of Garo Manga: The First Decade, 1964–1973 (Center for Book Arts, 2010) and the forthcoming No Nukes for Dinner: How One Japanese Cartoonist and His Country Learned to Distrust the Atom.

Manga—graphic novels or comics—play a vital role in contemporary Japanese culture. Not only do they enjoy immense popularity (annual sales within Japan have risen to more than two billion US dollars); internationally, they have become the centerpiece of the “Cool Japan Initiative,” the Japanese government’s current campaign to promote its status as a cultural superpower. Manga’s popularity partly arises from the medium’s historical connection with woodblock prints and paintings (ukiyo-e), which were produced in Japan throughout the Edo period (1615–1868). The term manga, in fact, was coined by the celebrated ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849).

Since 2014, in its mission to expand and significantly enhance its renowned collection of Japanese works on paper, the Honolulu Museum of Art has acquired several examples of manga by artists such as Maruo Suehiro (b. 1956) and Anno Moyoco (b. 1971). In 2016, the museum presented Visions of Gothic Angels: Japanese Manga by Takaya Miou (August 25, 2016–January 15, 2017), the first in a series of exhibitions that explore the art-historical importance of this medium. That series now continues with The Disasters of Peace: Social Discontent in the Manga of Tsuge Tadao and Katsumata Susumu.


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