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CF Webber Gallery to Host "Beauty Given by Grace: The Biblical Prints of Sadao Watanabe"

July 29, 2015 -- The College of Central Florida Webber Gallery, 3001 S.W. College Road, will host the traveling exhibition “Beauty Given by Grace: The Biblical Prints of Sadao Watanabe,” Sept. 10 through Oct. 30.

An opening reception will be held Thursday, Sept. 10, from 4-6 p.m. at the Webber Center.

The exhibition features original works of graphic art by Japan’s foremost Christian artist of the 20th century. Born in 1913, Sadao Watanabe was baptized as a Christian at age 17 and devoted his life to depicting the stories of the Bible in a visual language understandable to the Japanese.

Watanabe used a traditional technique for dyeing textiles with hand cut stencils from the Okinawa Islands to make prints on paper. When Watanabe died in 1996, he left behind a visual legacy unique in contemporary sacred art.

“Beauty Given by Grace: The Biblical prints of Sadao Watanabe”brings together 50 stencil prints, calendars and cards on biblical themes from the collections of Sandra Bowden and John A. Kohan. These intricately patterned images in a variety of styles and formats offer a panoramic view of the Bible, beginning with the Garden of Eden in Genesis and concluding with angelic trumpeters at the end of time in Revelation.

Watanabe saw himself as a Christian printmaker whose mission was “to stand within the artistic tradition of Japan.” In his visual world, the creatures entering Noah’s Ark correspond to the animal signs of the Asian zodiac. Jesus and his disciples wear kimonos and gather at the Last Supper to eat fish and drink sake.

Watanabe found inspiration in the mingeifolk art movement that developed in Japan in the mid-1920s to promote traditional handcrafts made from natural materials. Working with his wife, Harue, Watanabe cut all his stencil patterns by hand and printed his images on handmade mulberry paper, coloring them with vegetable and mineral pigments. He created small biblical scenes on untreated sheets of washi Japanese paper and large folio-sized prints on momigami wrinkled paper, made by crumpling and stretching sheets of mulberry paper to create a textured surface. Examples of both types of prints can be seen in the exhibition along with Christmas cards and calendars with print reproductions that Watanabe authorized for publication each year.

Watanabe’s stencil prints can be found in the permanent collections of the British Museum, New York’s Museum of Modern Art, The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo, and the Vatican Museum of Modern Religious Art. His chief desire was for his biblical prints to be seen in variety of public places by as broad an audience as possible.

This exhibition is presented by CIVA| Christians in the Visual Arts. CIVA hopes “Beauty Given by Grace: The Biblical Prints of Sadao Watanabe” will fulfill Watanabe's wish as it travels to venues across the U.S. and introduces this remarkable Japanese artist of faith to a new generation of art lovers.

The exhibit is free. Webber Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. The gallery is closed Saturdays and Sundays and college-observed holidays. For more information, call 352-873-5809.


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