Google anything about Japanese prints and eventually you will end up at Floatingworld.com, an internet art dealer based right here in Chicago, which has just opened an amazing 8,200-square-foot display space in Lincoln Park. (That’s four times larger than the Buckingham Japanese print gallery at the Art Institute). It’s a simple, beautiful space, something like an upscale storefront restaurant, and perfect for the delectation of a genre that’s meant to be tasty and pleasing. The first entrée is a retrospective of Yozo Hamaguchi (1909-2000), an artist best known for his perfection of the laborious mezzotint technique that had all but disappeared in the twentieth-century. His monochrome kitchen table still-lifes from the 1950s feel like Japanese variants on Giorgio Morandi, but as he further explored his medium, his work got smaller, more colorful, and ever more precious, to the point where he was making a new kind of graphic jewelry. And despite spending his adult life in Paris and San Francisco, his later work feels ever more Japanese—i.e., more natural and evanescent. Happily, the gallery displays these prints outside the protective but annoying glass frames that are so necessary in public museums. This exhibition also includes the metal plates that were used in the printing process. In the shrinking world of art galleries, this ambitious new space, with its large public exhibitions, is bucking the trend, and let’s hope it’s not as evanescent as the aesthetic it will display. (Chris Miller)
Through November 30 at Floating World Gallery, 858 W. Armitage, #148.