A faintly printed image of an older man wearing glasses and holding an passport over his left cheek.

Noda Tetsuya: My Life in Print

Exhibition

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In the late 1960s, Japanese artist Noda Tetsuya began a series of prints that continues to this day, over 50 years later.

The prints, each titled Diary followed by a date, capture the large and small moments of the artist’s life, from the intimate and personal—his Israeli-born wife and their children and simple gifts from friends—to the public and far-reaching, such as young environmental activists in 1970s New York or the devastation that followed the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

A work made of woodblock and silkscreen; artist's proof.
Diary: March 31st, ‘78, 1978
Noda Tetsuya

Each of these moments Noda depicts in prints are created through a unique and multilayered method he himself developed. He begins by selecting a photograph, taken on the day of the title, that he manipulates in various ways. First he adds drawn elements—such as lines or shading—and whites out other aspects of the image. The altered photo is then scanned in an old-fashioned mimeograph machine, a process that creates a stencil of the image. Next Noda takes a sheet of handmade Japanese paper which he uses for all of his prints and applies subtle color through traditional woodblock technique. Finally he silkscreens his manipulated photo over the top and adds his signature, his name along with an inked thumbprint. The resulting images feel both eerily familiar and hauntingly distant, seemingly capturing the impermanence of time and the faultiness of memory.

Today Noda’s Diary images number well over 500, and he has become renowned as one of the most innovative Japanese print artists working today. This exhibition—the largest presentation of the artist’s work in North America—brings together key works from across his career: recent acquisitions to the Art Institute’s collection as well as those lent by the artist and local collectors.

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