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In Pursuit of Universalism

Yorozu Tetsugoro and Japanese Modern Art

Alicia Volk (Author)

Available worldwide

Hardcover, 328 pages
ISBN: 9780520259522
January 2010
$85.00, £71.00
In Pursuit of Universalism is the first comprehensive, English-language study of early twentieth-century Japanese modern art. In this groundbreaking work, which is also the inaugural recipient of the Phillips Book Prize (awarded by the Phillips Collection Center for the Study of Modern Art), Alicia Volk constructs a critical theory of artistic modernism in Japan between 1900 and 1930 by analyzing the work of Yorozu Tetsugorō, whose paintings she casts as a polemic response to Japan's late-nineteenth-century encounter with European art. Volk places Yorozu at the forefront of a movement that sought to define Japanese art's role in the world by interrogating and ultimately refusing the opposition between East and West. Instead, she vividly demonstrates how Yorozu reframed modern art's dualistic underpinnings and transposed them into an inclusive and synthetic relation between the local and the universal. By looking closely at questions of cultural exchange within modern art, In Pursuit of Universalism offers a new and vital account of both Japanese and Euroamerican modernism. Volk's pioneering study builds bridges between the fields of modern and Asian art and takes its place at the forefront of the emerging global history of modern art.

Copub: The Phillips Collection
Note on Translation and Names
Introduction: Painting “X”

1. Reverse Japonisme and the Structure of Modern Art in Japan
2. Nude Beauty: A Modernist Critique
3. Inventing the Self: The New Woman and the Revolutionary Artist
4. Expressionism and the “New Period of the Primitive”
5. Unified Rhythm: Toward a Universal Painting

Epilogue: Japanese Modern Art in the World
Further Reading
List of Illustrations
Alicia Volk is Assistant Professor of Japanese Art History at the University of Maryland and is the author of Made in Japan: The Postwar Creative Print Movement and the coauthor of Japan and Paris: Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, and the Modern Era.
“Masterfully written. . . . Alicia Volk embarks upon a fascinating journey to develop an alternative perspective for narrating the complexities of the Japanese art scene. . . . Volk’s stimulating book definitively illuminates a new horizon for the field of modern Asian art. . . . It is precisely what the discipline needs.”—Chun-Wa Chan, The University of Hong Kong Journal Of Oriental Studies
“Forceful and eloquent. . . . Volk masterfully unravels the knotty strands that coalesced to shape one individual artist’s perception of self and his work within existing academic, institutional, and professional structures. . . . [The] book deserves praise for being a substantially rigorous and provocative probe into the search for universalism in a differentiated world.”—Alice Y. Tseng International Journal Of Asian Studies
“Deserves to be read by all historians of modern art and East Asian culture.”—Journal Of Asian Stds (Jas) / Se Asia & Western Pacific
“An impressive book, beautifully produced and sustaining intellectual rigour with its detailed, stimulating research.”—Helenkilpatrick Japanese Studies
“Excellent. . . . Exquisitely written.”—Art Bulletin (CAA)
“Written beautifully and compellingly.”—Journal Of Japanese Studies
“Volk's impressive study rethinks the East-West binary often reiterated in discussions of Japanese modernism by reinserting local aspects into the universalizing tendencies of modernism itself. The book makes an important contribution to the growing literature on modern Japanese art history by providing an alternative comparative framework for understanding the global development of modernism that decenters Euro-America. Rigorously historical in her critique, Volk destabilizes our understanding of the Japanese experience of modernity through the prism of Yorozu's singular vision of the self, leaving us questioning conventional wisdom and contented to wobble.”—Gennifer Weisenfeld, Duke University

“In Volk's affectingly stunning and deeply reflective study of the Japanese artist Yorozu Tetsugorō's work between 1910-1930, we have a profoundly historical reminder of how modernism everywhere struggled to meet the demands of the new with the readymades of received artistic practices. In this study of Yorozu's utopian universalist project, Volk has imaginatively broadened our understanding of the modernist moment and perceptively captured its global program to unify art and life, contemporary culture and history.”—Harry Harootunian, author of Overcome by Modernity: History, Culture and Community in Interwar Japan

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