My disappointment with UT’s Ewing Gallery of Art.

“Liberated from Storage. This exhibition features historic and contemporary Asian works of art from the Ewing Gallery permanent collection with a focus on traditional and avant garde examples of printmaking.”

That’s it. That is the entirety of explanation for the exhibit. Knoxville does not have the breadth of cultural activities compared to where we have lived; and we’re all operating in a coronavirus haze, I get that, but after two exhibits (there’s another post to come), I’m thinking that the university isn’t even trying.

We enjoy Asian art, and in particular, wood block prints. That is why we were drawn to the exhibit. Thankfully we learned the history of wood block prints on our first holiday in Japan, with those lessons being reinforced at a couple of my art group outings in Vienna. Otherwise, we would have had no idea what we were looking at.

Woodblock painting was established by and for Japan’s lower class, with men producing the pieces and women selling them in local shops. But for western painters, ink painting was exotic.  Utagawa Kunisada is considered the most successful of the Ukiyo-e woodblock print artists, influencing many of the Big Names like Monet and Degas, but the casual Ewing-goer would not know that. That’s the nutshell version, of course.

There were at least three of Kunisada’s prints on exhibit.

Eastern Genji Departing on a Horse (with bonus photobomb of my striped sweater)

Woman with a Letter

Customs of the Five Horses. This was among my favorites in the collection.

A contemporary, Hiroshige was also featured, as were others. This is A Beauty and Her Cat. 

The exhibit moved into landscapes and works of the natural world, which we also enjoy. This is another Hiroshige.

There is complimentary 45-minute parking near the gallery, which concerned us on our first visit. Though as we have learned, if there is little to no explanation for the art, one can breeze through the exhibit with time to spare.

I do not write this post as an art snob. Because I am far from being so. Quite far. But at the same time, the gallery has art worth appreciating. I only wish the curators thought so as well.