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March 1, 2011
CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine:

SRU displays rare collection of Japanese prints for first time

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. –Slippery Rock University will display an historic collection of Japanese woodblock prints for the first time March 14-18, including rare originals by the granddaddies of 19th century printmaking – Utagawe Hiroshige and Katsushika Hokusai.
         The exhibition will be staged at SRU’s Martha Gault Art Gallery in Maltby Center. An opening reception is from 5-7 p.m. March 14.
         Kurt Pitluga, SRU assistant professor of art and exhibit curator, will discuss the technique, context and influence of Japanese prints at 4 p.m. March 14 in SRU’s Art Building. The public is invited. Barbara Westerman, SRU assistant professor of art, and Armand Policicchio, SRU associate professor of professional studies, will offer further context.
        Pitluga has been researching, documenting and photographing the prints for a digital archive for more than a year.
      “The collection of Japanese prints and objects were collected by Martha Gault, who taught art education and was the chair of the Slippery Rock University art department from 1954-1968,” Pitluga said. “In the early 1960s, the Pennsylvania Department of Education made the decision to allow each of its 14 institutions to ‘adopt’ a foreign country.  For SRU, the country was Japan.”
       To enhance the presence of Japanese culture, the state offered grants for the express purpose of purchasing items for the art department's permanent collection. “Gault was awarded a grant and used a sabbatical to travel with her husband, John, to purchase a variety of works representing Japanese craft,” Pitluga said.
      The collection she amassed includes prints, textiles, pottery, furniture and toys.
      Most of the full-color prints are 19 by 20 inches. At least 30 are originals, including prints by Hiroshige (1797-1858) and Hokusai (1760-1849). Their techniques of flatness, style and color influenced many Western painters, including impressionists Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin, Pitluga said.
      SRU’s collection of Japanese prints includes calligraphy and depicts Mount Fuji, battle scenes and female figures. Some of the prints were donated to the University by Emma Guffey Miller, a friend of Gault’s and western Pennsylvania political figure for whom SRU’s Miller Auditorium is named.
       Japanese woodblock printmaking is a medium that involves several steps. The text or image is drawn onto paper and then glued onto a plank of wood, usually cherry. Wood is then cut away based on the outlines given by the drawing. A small, wooden object called a “baren” is used to press the paper against the inked woodblock, applying ink to paper.
       Martha Gault Gallery hours are noon to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday.
Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania’s premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.