Villains and Heroes: Japanese Kabuki Prints

An intimate exhibition of color woodblock prints depicting the enchanting world of Japanese Kabuki theater will be on view at the Norton Simon Museum from April 19 to August 5, 2002. Villains and Heroes  features more than twenty prints by the great master of this tradition, Katsukawa Shunshō (1726-1792), as well as prints by Ippitsusai Bunchō, Kitao Shigemasa, and Katsukawa Shunei.

Developed in the seventeenth century, Kabuki is a highly stylized form of drama performed exclusively by men. In many plays, a narrator presents the action of the story, which is mimed in dance form by the actors. Kabuki Theater is a component of the ukiyo-e  art movement, which was devoted to the worldly pleasures of urban life in eighteenth century Edo (modern-day Tokyo). The two primary subjects of ukiyo-e, or “pictures of the floating world,” were the male actors from the theater district and the pleasure quarters of the geisha.