FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - September 19, 2022
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The Japanese American National Museum Launches Online Exhibition on Issei Artist Wakaji Matsumoto
LOS ANGELES, CA – The Japanese American National Museum (JANM) launched the online exhibition, Wakaji Matsumoto—An Artist in Two Worlds: Los Angeles and Hiroshima, 1917–1944, at janm.org/wakaji-matsumoto. This exhibition highlights rarely seen early photographs of Los Angeles prior to World War II and of Hiroshima before the US dropped the atomic bomb through the single lens of photographer Wakaji Matsumoto.
“We are proud to launch this important photographic collection on janm.org. Wakaji’s work is a testament to the extensive connections that this generation of photographers in Los Angeles’s Little Tokyo had throughout the US, Europe, and Japan. This online exhibition diversifies the history of photography and deepens that of Little Tokyo. Now, a wider audience will be able to experience the richness of his work and discover how the experiences of Japanese Americans continue to be deeply relevant today,” said Ann Burroughs, President and CEO.
Wakaji Matsumoto—An Artist in Two Worlds: Los Angeles and Hiroshima, 1917–1944 is an online exhibition and public program about an artist and pioneer in Pictorialism who documented the lives of Japanese immigrant farmers in rural Los Angeles during the early 1900s and created rare images of urban life in Hiroshima prior to the 1945 atomic bombing of the city.
“Wakaji became a skillful photographer while working with Toyo Miyatake and joined the Japanese Camera Pictorialists of California, a club based in Little Tokyo. According to my grandmother, it was during this time that he met prominent photographers of that period, including Edward Weston and Ansel Adams,” said Karen Matsumoto, the artist’s granddaughter.
The online exhibition showcases a selection of rare photographs never before seen in the US. It will also feature essays by Matsumoto and Dennis Reed, the curator of the exhibition, as well as videos of Reed discussing the significance of Wakaji Matsumoto’s work. The exhibition will also be translated into Japanese by November.
“Wakaji Matsumoto’s photographs of farms that were operated by Japanese Americans in the Los Angeles area demonstrate the difficult life of Japanese Americans and their resolve and resilience. His photographs of Hiroshima are the largest-known photographic archive of the city prior to the atomic bomb. Today, our knowledge of the city’s horrific fate lends a pall of melancholy over these tender images. They bear the weight of history,” said Reed.
This exhibition was made possible by support from the National Endowment for the Humanities Planning Grant, Humanities For All grant from California Humanities, and Berkeley JACL. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this exhibition do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Assistance was provided by Hitoshi Ohuchi, grandson of Wakaji Matsumoto, contributor and logistics coordinator with the Hiroshima City Archives; Hiroshima City Archives; Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum; Chugoku Shimbun; and Hiroshima Film Commission.
All photographs in this online exhibition were taken by Wakaji Matsumoto (copyright Matsumoto Family).
JANM will also host a public program on Saturday, November 19, 2022, that features a panel discussion on the historic significance of Wakaji’s work and the story behind the collection.
“This exhibition allows visitors to expand their understanding of the role that the arts and humanities played in the Japanese American experience and in the local and international Pictorialism community. Visitors from around the world will be able to inhabit this narrative that challenges existing ideas of who makes groundbreaking and historic contributions to art and history in America,” said Clement Hanami, vice president of exhibitions and art director at JANM.
About the Japanese American National Museum (JANM)
Established in 1985, JANM promotes understanding and appreciation of America’s ethnic and cultural diversity by sharing the Japanese American experience. Located in the historic Little Tokyo district of downtown Los Angeles, JANM is a hybrid institution that straddles traditional museum categories and strives to provide a voice for Japanese Americans as well as a forum that enables all people to explore their own heritage and culture. Since opening to the public in 1992, JANM has presented over 70 exhibitions onsite while traveling 17 exhibits to venues such as the Smithsonian Institution and the Ellis Island Museum in the United States, and to several leading cultural museums in Japan and South America. For more information, visit janm.org or follow us on social media @jamuseum.