Defiant Vision: Prints & Poetry by Munio Makuuchi

Munio Makuuchi (American, 1934–2000). Hardedge drawings ala Dad via +, ca. 1986–89. Drypoint, scraping, and burnishing on warm white Arches paper. Smith College Museum of Art. Purchased with the Elizabeth Halsey Dock, class of 1933, Fund.

It’s always a pleasure to work with people you know well. I’ve known Aprile Gallant since our younger days in the curatorial department of the Portland Museum of Art. She is now the Associate Director of Curatorial Affairs and Senior Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs at the Smith College Museum of Art, where one of her recent projects is Defiant Vision: Prints & Poetry by Munio Makuuchi, an unprecedented look at a vastly under-recognized artist and poet. The exhibition is on view August 23 through December 8, 2019.

“The son of a Japanese-born father and American-born mother, Makuuchi and his family were confined in an incarceration camp for Japanese Americans from 1942 to 1945,” notes the SCMA website. “The Minidoka Relocation Center in Idaho was one of ten facilities designed to contain over 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry living on the west coast during World War II. This pivotal experience was a catalyst for Makuuchi’s art as well as his rootless existence.”

This is an important story and a difficult one to tell. Aprile and her catalogue coauthors, Drs. Floyd Cheung and Margo Machida (there is also an excellent chronology by Claire Haug, Smith ’20), had to document Makuuchi’s personal history as well as the larger history of Japanese internment; analyze both his graphic artwork and his literary work; and place him in a context with other Japanese American artists of his generational cohort. It has been my honor to help them in those goals throughout the production of the book, from developmental editing to proofreading.

 

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