January 23 – May 16, 2021
Witness to Wartime: The Painted Diary of Takuichi Fujii introduces an artist whose work opens a window to historical events, issues, and ideas far greater than the individual. Takuichi Fujii (1891 - 1964) bore witness to his life in America and, most especially, to his experience during World War II. Fujii left a remarkably
comprehensive visual record of this important time in American history, and offers a unique perspective on his generation. This stunning body of work sheds light on events that most Americans did not experience, but whose lessons remain salient today.
Takuichi Fujii was fifty years old when war broke out between the United States and Japan. In a climate of increasing fear and racist propaganda, he became one of 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast forced to leave their homes and live in geographically isolated incarceration camps. He and his family,
together with most ethnic Japanese from Seattle, were sent first to the Puyallup temporary detention camp on the Washington State Fairgrounds, and in August 1942 were transferred to the Minidoka Relocation Center in southern Idaho.
Confronting such circumstances, Fujii began an illustrated diary that spans the years from his forced removal in May 1942 to the closing of Minidoka in October 1945. In nearly 250 ink drawings ranging from public to intimate views, the diary depicts detailed images of the incarceration camps, and the inmates’ daily
routines and pastimes. Several times Fujii depicts himself in the act of drawing, a witness to the experience of confinement. He also produced over 130 watercolors that reiterate and expand upon the diary, augmenting those scenes with many new views, as well as other aesthetic and formal considerations of painting. Additionally the wartime work includes several oil paintings and sculptures,
notably a carved double portrait of Fujii and his wife.
After the war Fujii moved to Chicago, which became home to a large Japanese American community under the government’s resettlement program. He continued to paint, experimenting broadly in abstraction, and toward the end of his life produced a series of boldly gestural black-and-white abstract expressionist
paintings. These, and his American realist paintings of the 1930s, frame the wartime work that is his singular legacy and remains relevant today.
Witness to Wartime: Takuichi Fujii is curated by Barbara Johns, PhD, and the traveling exhibition is organized by Curatorial Assistance Traveling Exhibitions, Pasadena, California.
Self Portrait, 1935