The turbulent social, cultural, and political evolutions of early-20th-century Japan created just the right climate for a new style of art to flourish. Modernization, Westernization, the rise of the single career woman, and the clash between traditional art practice and the innovations of the jazz era all came together in Taishō culture (named for Emperor Taishō, who ruled from 1912 to 1926). In the first big exhibition of Taishō outside of Japan, the Berkeley Art Museum presents Taishō Chic: Japanese Modernity, Nostalgia, and Deco, a dazzling collection of scroll paintings, folding screens, woodblock prints, kimono, and other works of decorative art. Long neglected by art historians, perhaps because of its ambiguous fusion of high and low art, Taishō encapsulates a transitional era in Japan, often compared to the Roaring Twenties in America. A key element is its depiction of women, whose paradoxical role in society — keeping one foot in tradition while stepping toward independence and sexual liberation — mirrors the essential conundrum of the art itself. For his 1936 folding screen Three Sisters, Shuho Yamakawa portrays the kimono-clad daughters of a successful industrialist in front of their touring car. Daizaburo Nakamura’s two-panel screen Woman, from 1930, depicts the famous film actress Takako Irie dressed in a red kimono and reclining on a Western chaise longue in a pose akin to Manet’s Olympia. Whether the medium is woodblock or watercolor or textile, the artworks use brilliant and seemingly impossible color combinations and a whimsical disregard for stylistic boundaries. This collection was purchased mainly from a private collector by the Honolulu Academy of Arts, and we’re lucky to have an exclusive viewing.
In conjunction with the exhibit, which runs through December 23, the Pacific Film Archive offers a series featuring Kenji Mizoguchi and other directors who captured the spirit of TaishōTaishō, and there will be a series of public events as well as an ongoing related exhibit at the museum, “Meiji à la Mode: A Modernizing Japan, 1868-1912.” For more information, visit BAMPFA.berkeley.edu or call 510-642-0808. — Sarah Cahill
High and Inside
Baseball fever usually begins in April, and by September the passion is either red-hot or burned out, depending on how your favorite team is doing. But when the traveling exhibition Baseball as America swaggers into the Oakland Museum of California this week — dripping with nostalgia for the likes of Jackie Robinson, baseball cards, Berkeley’s own Billy Martin, twi-night double headers, Willie Mays, hot dogs, and pennant races — even hardcore A’s fans will take time out to have a look. The culture-rich show, organized by the National Baseball Hall of Fame, opens Saturday and runs through January 22, and has enough side events to fill Fenway Park. Murder the Red Sox! To learn more, go to MuseumCA.org — Kelly Vance
The Beauty of the Unplanned
Curators Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher Dumpster-dived for the same reasons a lot of art students do — to dig up art as well as a broken-down sofa for their loft. But the enterprising Queens, New York, duo (Prueher worked for David Letterman, Pickett was a techie) turned their trash-trove of discarded videotapes into a touring clips show, the Found Footage Festival, playing at 6 p.m. Sunday at Oakland’s Parkway Theater (1834 Park Blvd.) on its way through the Bay Area. Sunday’s compilation, dubbed “FBI Warning,” features a McDonald’s training reel, amateur music vids, and the video diary of onetime teen star Corey Haim. $6. For more info, visit FoundFootageFestival.com — Kelly Vance
“I need a fat girl tonight,” reggae crooner Leroy Sibbles once sang. And while the entirely unrealistic, anorexia-inducing model of ultra-slim cultural beauty may have made millionaires out of Jenny Craig and the inventors of the South Beach diet, there are indications that things are changing. Such as Wendy Shanker ‘s recent humor book, The Fat Girl’s Guide to Life, which teaches women how to embrace their inner fertility goddess, or at least to not feel guilty about finishing off the macaroons. Shanker hosts a full-figured fashion show this Thursday at 6 p.m. at Macy’s in Pleasanton’s Stoneridge Mall — proving that being a plus size doesn’t have to be a minus. For more info, call 925-463-2770. — Eric K. Arnold