Sharpen your wit! Shigeo Fukuda Super-Retrospective

Visual prankster Shigeo Fukuda’s designs have a simplicity and playfulness that make this exhibition at the Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum one for all the family.

“I believe that in design, 30 percent dignity, 20 percent beauty and 50 percent absurdity are necessary.”

So designer Shigeo Fukuda once said to Japanese design magazine Idea. To this list should also be added simplicity. Of Fukuda, the New York Times wrote in its 2009 obituary for the prolific creator, “his spare style was universal, his symbolism bridging cultural divides.” He was also a visual prankster and many of his works employ double meanings and optical illusions, which help bridge generational divides too. It is the simplicity and playfulness of Fukuda’s posters, collages and sculptures that make this retrospective at the Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum worth a visit.

The simplicity means that the viewer isn’t lost due to the lack of English guidance. Although it would be nice to get a little more background about the artist and his work, the titles are generally self explanatory.

One of his most recognizable poster works is “Victory 1945”. In bold yellow and black, it is a satirical commentary on the senselessness of war, which shows an artillery shell heading into the barrel of the cannon from which it was shot. Some of the posters are commercial, but most of them are advocate for pacifism and environmentalism. Gender issues also seem to have been a major concern, judging by all the legs.

The playfulness makes this exhibition particularly enjoyable for children. My 9 year old son giggled his way around the show cocking his head to see the posters upside down and back to front, marveling at the unusable tea pots and cups and trying to work out how the sculptures and collages worked.

Even better, admission for children under High School age is free.

Sharpen your wit! Shigeo Fukuda Super-Retrospective continues at the Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum until March 31 2012. Click here for more details.


Paul Walsh

Paul arrived in Hiroshima "for a few months" back in 1996. He is the co-founder of and loves running in the mountains.