Exhibition | A Third Gender: Beautiful Youths in Japanese Prints
A Third Gender: Beautiful Youths in Japanese Prints
Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, 7 May — 27 November 2016
Japan Society, New York, 10 March — 11 June 2017
Curated by Asato Ikeda
The ground-breaking A Third Gender: Beautiful Youths in Japanese Prints opened at the Royal Ontario Museum on Saturday, May 7, 2016. Featuring stunning woodblock prints, samurai armor, a kimono, screen paintings, lacquerwork, and illustrated books, the exhibition explores issues of gender and tells a pivotal story of sexuality in Japan’s Edo period (1603–1868).
A Third Gender is the first North American display on wakashu. Four hundred years ago in Japan, a complex social structure existed in which gender involved more than a person’s biological sex. Age, position in the sexual hierarchy, and appearance were also considered. Fundamental to this structure were youths termed wakashu. Neither ‘adult man’ nor ‘woman’—each a separate gender—wakashu were objects of desire for both, playing distinct social and sexual roles. Constituting a third gender, they are visually represented in these Edo period woodblock prints.
The exhibition features approximately 60 woodblock prints (ukiyo-e), visually representing wakashu. Many never before displayed, they are from the ROM’s Japanese art collection—the largest in Canada. Produced since the 8th century in Japan, woodblock prints, created collaboratively by a designer, engraver, printer, and publisher, became popular in the 17th century. The exhibition’s prints were created in early 18th to mid-19th centuries by major ukiyo-e masters including Okumura Masanobu, Suzuki Harunobu, and Kitagawa Utamaro.
A Third Gender is curated by Dr. Asato Ikeda, Assistant Professor of Art History at Fordham University, New York and the ROM’s 2014–16 Bishop White Postdoctoral Fellow of Japanese Art and Culture. In Ikeda’s words, “A Third Gender invites ROM visitors to think differently about gender and sexuality and we anticipate the exhibition will be of interest to a diverse audience.”
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Joshua Mostow, Asato Ikeda, and Ryoko Matsuba, A Third Gender: Beautiful Youth in Japanese Edo-period Prints, 1600–1868 (Leiden: Hotei, 2016), 215 pages, ISBN 978-0888545145, $50.
For the first time outside Japan, A Third Gender examines the fascination with wakashu in Edo-period culture and their visual representation in art, demonstrating how they destabilize the conventionally held model of gender binarism. The volume will reproduce, in color, over a hundred works, mostly woodblock prints and illustrated books from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries produced by a number of designers ranging from such well-known artists as Okumura Masanobu, Suzuki Harunobu, Kitagawa Utamaro, and Utagawa Kunisada, to lesser known artists such as Shigemasa, Eishi, and Eiri. A Third Gender is based on the collection of the Royal Ontario Museum, which houses the largest collection of Japanese art in Canada, including more than 2500 woodblock prints.
Joshua S. Mostow is Professor of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. Asato Ikeda is Assistant Professor of Art History at Fordham University, New York and the ROM’s 2014–16 Bishop White Postdoctoral Fellow of Japanese Art and Culture.
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P R O G R A M S E R I E S
Elements of Sake
3 May 2016
Join Michael Tremblay for an introduction and guided tasting of sake, designed to demystify and engage. This special evening will explore the basics of sake, its production and history, and the culture that created it.
Japanese Visual Culture: Gender and Sexual Diversity
12 May 2016
Asato Ikeda, the curator of A Third Gender, will examine the role of male youths in Edo-period Japan and how this gender and sexuality system can be understood from a contemporary North American perspective.
It’s Complicated: Gender Ambiguity in Early-Mondern Japan
7 June 2016
Explore the roles of gender, sexuality, and erotic art in Japanese culture with internationally renowned scholar Joshua Mostow. Please note this lecture will contain explicit images and discussions of a sexual nature, and is not recommended for those under the age of 18.
Lost in Translation? Gender and Sexuality Across Time and Cultures
21 June 2016
How do we understand representations of sexuality, including same sex sexuality, across different historical and cultural moments without imposing contemporary norms? Join our panel as they explore concepts surrounding our exhibition A Third Gender.
The Art of Japan
16 October 2016
Experience the fundamentals of Japanese art in this in-depth workshop lead by ROM Educator George Hewson. This full day workshop includes a guided visit of the exhibition A Third Gender and lunch.
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Note (added 14 March 2017) — The original posting did not include the Japan Society as a venue.