In “Future’s Past: The Black Ships” Seattle artist Jonathan Wakuda Fischer investigates the dual perception of Japanese culture as hyper contemporary and technologically advanced, yet one that retains and prizes its ancient traditions. Using urban graffiti techniques (spray-paint and stencils), Wakuda references both modern and ancient Japanese aesthetics such as ukiyo-e woodblock prints and the contemporary superflat movement. The paintings in “Future’s Past” tell visual stories based on folklore, anime, science fiction, and Japanese history.
Deceiving the Gods/Demands from Beyond the Horizon These two companion pieces reflect the interaction between the Americans and Japanese during the black ships period. Demands from Beyond the Horizon depicts the foreign powers descending on Japan with a list of demands. In Deceiving the Gods, figures holding Noh masks represent the complicated ways that Japanese and Americans perceived each other. Perry regarded the Japanese as a duplicitous and deceitful people. The Japanese, aware of the vast gulf in technology and the great strength of the westerners, believed that deception was their only defense. Some Japanese viewed the Americans as ‘tengu,’ supernatural beings from folklore.