Thursday, February 11, 2010

Exhibition Posters (1928-41)

Yesterday, the off-kilter cultural archivists at Pink Tentacle presented us with a stunning array of Japanese exhibition posters taken from the book Nihon No Hakurankai (日本の博覧会), published in 2005. These illustrated graphic designs were created to promote various government-sponsored exhibitions (hakurankai) from the mid-1920s to the early 1940s. We'd like to share with you some of our favorites, as well as a little quick commentary.

From the celebration of the Shōwa emperor's coronation to the final image seen here, taken from 1941, the radical emotional and political shift in the country at the time is clearly conveyed through the artwork. Unsurprisingly, tanks and machine guns figure prominently in the latter designs, representing ideas of "national defense" and "Asia development". Ironically, 1937 marks the year of the Pan-Pacific Peace Exposition, a world's fair in Nagoya, in which both China and the U.S. were participating countries. During the months following the exhibition Japanese troops would eventually capture Shanghai and commit unspeakable atrocities in Nanking.

Notice how the text of these posters reads from right to left. This was typical of most printed material in Japanese from before and during the war.

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