Exhibition Details

Location: Lyon Gallery
Dates: June 4, 2014
to November 16, 2014


Drawing from recent gifts to the Museum, Quiet Rage, Gentle Wail will explore Noh, the traditional Japanese theater form that incorporates music, dance and drama. Noh Theatre was established during the fourteenth century when a few talented writer-actors transformed the popular entertainment into a sophisticated, intellectual art backed by the ruling class. Through the stories adopted from well-known myths, historical events, and classical literatures, Noh dramas explore profound human emotions with subtle and symbolic performances. For contemporary Japanese as much as foreigners, Noh Theatre is a thought-provoking, yet complex art that is often hard to comprehend.

Bringing together different media that relate to Noh Theatre, this exhibition will have a multi-dimensional approach to appreciate Noh and its aesthetics: simplicity, nuance, and the distaste for realism. Included in the exhibition are 22 Noh masks, a pair of two-panel screens and approximately 24 prints that depict Noh actors on stage.

Prints in the exhibition were published by Matsuki Heikichi, who aimed to revive the tradition of fine Japanese woodblock prints, production of which reached its peak in the 18th century but the quality declined in the 19th century due to the increased volume of production. Matsuki commissioned a painter Tsukioka Kōgyo, an avid fan of Noh Theatre himself, who successfully captured the quintessential moments in Noh dramas in these prints. Done on high-quality paper with some silver and gold accents, the prints show that the woodblock carvers and printers masterfully recreated the delicate touch of brushwork by Kōgyo. The exhibition will also include prints by Kōgyo’s daughter who carried on this tradition.

The masks are from the pre-modern and early modern eras, and encompass a wide variety of specimens, from a quiet male figure to an angry female demon. Together they reveal how such a mask with its emblematic expression contributes to a subtle performance of Noh. In some roles, an actor wearing a mask can express different emotion by varying the tilt of the wearer’s head. Museum visitors can witness this effect by viewing the images of one of the masks photographed from three different angles. 

The exhibition is part of the three-year project, Japan in Global Context, organized by ASU and funded by the Japan Foundation. Phoenix Art Museum is one of the participants in this grant project.

Exhibition Programming

Kōgyo: Master Printmaker of Noh Theatre - June 4, 12 p.m. - Asian Gallery

Make It - June 18, 5:30 p.m. - Great Hall

Noh Theatre Performance - June 28, 1 p.m. - Whiteman Hall

Note: The above is posted as an example of the kind of performance visitors can expect. Performers from Theatre Nohgaku will not be in full costume for this performance.

Noh Theatre Workshop - June 29, 1 p.m. - Whiteman Hall

Exhibition Catalogue

Quiet Rage, Gentle Wail: Prints and Masks of Japanese Noh Theater by Phoenix Art Museum

Image Credit

Left: Unknown, Japan, Noh mask for Ko-Omote, 18th-20th century. Painted wood. Collection of Phoenix Art Museum, Gift of Roger Dunn. Photograph by Ken Howie. Middle: Unknown, Japan, Noh mask for Yoroboshi, 18th-20th century. Painted wood. Collection of Phoenix Art Museum, Gift of Roger Dunn. Photograph by Ken Howie. Right: Unknown, Japan, Noh mask for Kitsune, 18th-20th century. Painted wood. Collection of Phoenix Art Museum, Gift of Roger Dunn. Photograph by Ken Howie.

Exhibition Sponsors

The exhibition is organized by Phoenix Art Museum. 

Additional Support provided by: