Ansei Uchima Biography

Ansei Uchima




The work of Ansei Uchima reflects a complex fusion of Western and Eastern artistic traditions. Born in Stockton, California on May 1, 1921 and grew up in Los Angeles. In 1940, at age nineteen Uchima traveled to Japan to study architecture at Waseda University and after World War II studied painting and traditional Japanese printmaking. Through his job as translator for Oliver Statler, an American print collector who was interviewing artists for a book on contemporary Japanese prints, he was introduced to the sosaku-hanga (creative print) movement, which incorporated a Western modernist aesthetic.

Like other artists in the sosaku-hanga school, Uchima carved, inked, and printed his own wood blocks, enjoying the accidents and unexpected opportunities that arose spontaneously from interaction with the wood block. His first prints, beginning in 1957, drew from nature and the world around him. After he returned to the United States in 1959, his floating, calligraphic compositions, characteristic of sosaku-hanga, suggested the growing influence of Abstract Expressionism. Uchima used Japanese paper made especially for him by a Japanese master papermaker and National Treasure, Ichibei Iwano.

Uchima was an esteemed woodblock print artist, painter, and fine arts professor, a member of the Japan Print Society, as well as Emeritus faculty member at Sarah Lawrence College, where he taught from 1962 to 1982. Uchima also taught at Columbia University to 1982. He received Guggenheim Fellowships in 1962 and 1970, and his work is included in permanent collections at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney Museum, National Gallery of Art, among many others.

His work was discussed by him in his 1982 book " Thirty Years: My Journey with Woodcuts". Ansei Uchima died on May 9, 2000 in New York, NY.