The 1960s in Japan was a time of great economic growth and social change. By this time in Japan’s history, the American occupation was over but the social, political, and economic impact that the occupation had on Japan was substantial. From these social changes a new breed of Japanese artists bloomed, including Yoshida Hodaka, who began to utilize foreign themes and artistic methods in connection with old Japanese art mediums, setting an asterisk next to the definition of Japanese art. Thus, with the development of a ‘new’ Japan, and foreign influences from America and beyond, Yoshida Hodaka developed as an artist to make pieces such as Nonsense Mythology.
In the woodblock print, Nonsense Mythology Yoshida Hodaka explores his ideas on the origin and flow of primitive human culture that he obtained from Mayan culture. With this he defines mythology as a “mysterious story,” or a sort of fundamental truth, in that the images reflect this sense of mystery, using themes of alien values, shocked emotions, instability, and an ominous uncertainty that were prevalent in the Japanese mind in the 1960s (Skibbe, 47). The sexy females and leering, shadowy men suggest the primitive power of human sexuality and the irrational mentality behind it. The title is written in katakana, used in Japanese for foreign words connecting the images to a western cultural influence. Similarly, orange squares form a cross in the piece, also denoting foreignness, however, the division of the squares in Japanese culture suggest a Buddhist meditative mandala. By utilizing both western and Japanese culture in this piece, Yoshida Hodaka congers a piece of art that reflects the dynamic Japanese culture of the 1960s.
From Japan’s defeat in WWII to the 1970s great change occurred in Japan. In 1945, the psychological world that many Japanese knew came to an end after Emperor Hirohito announced on national radio Japan’s defeat and the testimonial that he was not a god. In the wake of the war Japan as a nation was in ruins; the economy was wrecked, mass starvation lingered everywhere among the leveled cities, though relief coming from the Allied Powers spurred the recovery of Japan. With the conclusion of the war General Douglas MacArthur utilized his powers as Supreme Commander to nurse the devastated Japan back so that it would recover from the war, but also to prevent Japan from rising again as a militaristic nation. At the same time, Communist powers were swelling in China and Russia, thus Mac Arthur strategically wanted American bases in Japan to face this growing threat to democracy. With most of the shipping, resources, and factories destroyed, the Allied Powers began importing resources to Japan in order to revive the economy and to counter the massive homelessness and starvation. Along with supplies, American culture was in a way ‘reintroduced’ to Japan, through products as well as military personnel. With MacArthur’s plan for a non-militaristic Japan, a democratic constitution was written, labor unions were formed, big business cartels and monopolies were broken up, schools promoted individualistic thinking, and land reforms nearly abolished tenant farming. Yet throughout the 1950s and 60s, as Japan began growing by leaps and bounds economically to become the world’s third largest economy in 1969, the nation was still plagued with problems such as housing shortages and insufficient transportation. As Japan recovered and culture expanded, many artists began branching away from the traditional and looking to the rest of the world for influences. From this artistic movement came Japanese rock n’ roll, contemporary movie themes, and abstract/radical art. Thus, by the 1970s Japan was once again reborn in a western mold.
Yoshida Hodaka was at first not destined to be an artist, though through domestic and international influences it was made so. Hodaka came from a family of artists, though he was not encouraged to become an artist himself. At that time in Japan, modern art’s credibility was highly questioned, and Hodaka found a double freedom in learning abstract oil painting in secret as well as defying his family and Japanese culture (Allan, 20). Eventually utilizing woodblock printing in his work, Yoshida Hodaka also integrated multiple media, using photography and magazine cutouts. Early on Yoshida Hodaka was influenced by Mayan art while in Mexico because of the primitive life power that it portrayed (Skibbe, 45). Similarly, in Japan, the gardens of Kyoto influenced him due to their common theme of an ever-changing visual perspective, depending on the angle from which the garden is viewed. In 1963 he visited a Pop Art exhibition in New York City, which featured the abstract art of American Arthur Flory, and began to integrate abstract imagery into his works (Allan, 23). Hodaka then made a series of multimedia prints with a theme of mythology between the years 1966-1970. Due to positive and negative influences from home and abroad, Yoshida Hodaka progressively became more of an abstract artist.
Hoshida Hodaka Bibliography
Allen, Laura W., and Arts Minneapolis Institute of. A Japanese Legacy : Four Generations of Yoshida Family Artists. Minneapolis, Minn.: Minneapolis Institute of Arts ; Chicago.
Hane, Mikiso. Peasants, Rebels, and Outcastes : The Underside of Modern Japan. 1st ed. New York: Pantheon, 1982.
Hane, Mikiso, and Mikiso Hane. Modern Japan : A Historical Survey. Boulder: Westview Press, 1986.
Huffman, James L. Modern Japan : A History in Documents. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.
Schirokauer, Conrad. Modern China and Japan : A Brief History. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1982.
Skibbe, Eugene M. Yoshida Hodaka : The Magic of Art. Edina, Minnesota: Seascape, 1997.