"The Discovery of Kabuki"
For an eponymous book by Tetsunosuke Tomita
Silk-screen print (black on light brown)
103 x 72 cm
Ikko Tanaka, who has been one of Japan's most influential graphic artists since the 1960s, was born in 1930 in Nara. In 1950 he completed his studies at the Kyotô Municipal College of Arts and Crafts with a doctoral thesis. He started out his career as a textile designer at Kanegafuchi Spinning Mills and then as a graphic designer at Sankei Press before moving to Tokyo in 1957. In 1959 he was awarded the coveted Japan Advertising Artists Club Prize and in 1960, together with Kazumasa Nagai and Yusaku Kamekura, the one the same age as Tanaka, the other somewhat older, and others, he was one of the founding members of the Nippon Design Center. In 1963 he opened his own design studio in Tokyo.
Tanaka primarily designed posters for cultural events, for example performances of traditional Japanese theater (Kanze Nô). However, he also designed the pavilion of Japanese history at Expo '70 in Osaka, the Museum of Oceanic Culture at Ocean Expo '75 in Okinawa as well as several other exhibitions in Japan and Europe, including in 1980 "Japan Style" at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and "Japan Design – Traditional and Contemporary" in 1984 in Moscow. Since 1973 he has been Art Director of the Seibu Group. In 1983 he gave a series of lectures on "Colors in Japan" at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C.
The long list of national and international awards Tanaka has received includes the Gold Medal of the ADC in 1960, two Gold Medals from the Japan Sign Design Association in 1972 and 1973 and prizes from the Warsaw International Poster Biennale. Tanaka's poster style is characterized by a desire for a two-dimensional compactness and the use of a fresh vitality in calligraphy as a symbolic statement in which concrete elements also feature.