The Haiku as Visual Form Stanton Macdonald-Wright's the Haiga Portfolio

Stanton MacDonald-Wright, The spring sea swelling and falling all the day, 1966–1967, Woodblock print on mulberry paper, Image: 16 x 20 in.Stanton Macdonald-Wright, The Spring Sea Swelling and Falling all the Day, 1966–1967, Woodblock print on mulberry paper, 16 x 20 in.


The Haiku as Visual Form: Stanton Macdonald-Wright's the Haiga Portfolio
January 24 – May 8, 2022
John Young Museum of Art, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa

In 1966-67, the American artist Stanton Macdonald-Wright created the Haiga Portfolio, while working in Kyoto, Japan. The series of experimental prints offer visual interpretations of haiku by seven Japanese poets including Matsuo Bashō, Yosa Buson, and Kobayashi Issa. Macdonald-Wright felt the immediacy of the haiku poem could serve as a model for the abstract painting he was interested in developing: It was a form that could quickly get to an essential truth while omitting extraneous detail. In the 20 colorful, quasi-abstract woodblock prints we see Macdonald-Wright revisiting the early 20th century European ideal of making visible relationships between color, abstraction and feeling. The result is a visually spectacular proto-psychedelic series testing the relationship between words and images. 

Artist Bio

Stanton Macdonald-Wright (1890-1973) was an American artist and co-founder of the Synchromist movement, which alongside movements like Orphism and Futurism, defined the pre-War modernist era of radical visual experimentation. Synchromism upheld abstraction as an ideal and attempted to create musical visual art, emphasizing elements of rhythm, composition, and synesthesia. Macdonald-Wright has had retrospectives of his work at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (1956), the Smithsonian National Collection of Fine Arts (1967) and was part of “Synchronism and American Color Abstraction: 1910-1925” at the Whitney Museum of American Art (1978-79). His work was part of a major retrospective at the North Carolina Museum of Art, LACMA, and the Houston Museum of Fine Arts in 2001-2002. His work is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, LACMA, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Brooklyn Museum, and other major museums. 


This exhibition was curated by Dr. Maika Pollack, Director and Chief Curator, John Young Museum of Art and University Galleries with Olivia Ambo, Graduate Assistant, John Young Museum of Art and University Galleries.


This exhibition is made possible by a generous gift from the Jean Sutton Macdonald-Wright Estate. Other sponsors include: The John Young Foundation, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa’s Department of Art + Art History and College of Arts, Languages & Letters; supported by the Halekulani Hotel– Hospitality Sponsor for the Arts at UH Mānoa; the Cooke Foundation; and anonymous donors. 

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