The Disasters of Peace: Social Discontent in the Manga of Tsuge Tadao and Katsumata Susumu

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November 30, 2017 - April 15, 2018
Honolulu Museum of Art


Exhibition Overview

Manga—Japanese 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 Japanese 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 renowned ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849).

Beyond its occasional veneer of endearing innocence, manga produced in the late 20th century has frequently explored dark chapters of modern history and ethically complex social issues. In the early 1960s, a faction of avant-garde manga artists began to address these mature topics with a gritty, emotionally expressive style and a resolutely anti-authoritarian tone. Through anthology magazines such as Garo (published 1964–2002), which at its peak enjoyed a circulation of over eighty thousand copies, these artists inspired a new era of humanitarian concern and social activism among their readers.

The Disasters of Peace focuses upon the inhumanity and hardship that a community is forced to endure during a period of dramatic social upheaval. Ironically, artists Tsuge Tadao (b. 1941) and Katsumata Susumu (1943–2007) reveal that, in the years following the Pacific War (1941–1945), financial desperation, moral confusion, and the shame of military defeat compelled individuals to behave in questionable ways. Tsuge’s “Gently Goes the Night” (1970) reveals how the wistful hopes for companionship shared by a middle-aged man and a young woman can quickly deteriorate into panic and accusations. Katsumata’s “Deep Sea Fish” (1984) similarly portrays laborers at a nuclear power plant whose selfless devotion to their employers culminates in equally tragic results.

This exhibition is made possible by the Robert F. Lange Foundation.

Deep thanks to Ryan Holmberg; Katsumata Daichi; Katsumata Yoshiko; Tsuge Tadao; Breakdown Press, Inc.; and Drawn & Quarterly, Inc.

Hospitality sponsor: THE MODERN HONOLULU

Shown above (from left):

Katsumata Susumu (1947-2007) 
Kapparō, detail: p. 13
1969
Drawing (genga), ink on paper
Collection of the artist

Tsuge Tadao (born 1941)
Song of Shōwa, detail: p. 2
1969
Drawing (genga), ink on paper
Collection of the artist 

Katsumata Susumu (1947-2007)
Deep Sea Fish, detail: p. 9
1984
Drawing (genga), ink on paper
Collection of the artist