Curated by Barbara Johns, PhD
Witness to Wartime: 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 had become 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.
VIEW Prospectus (PDF)
NUMBER OF WORKS
82 objects (oil paintings, watercolors, ink drawings, books, sculpture, and an interactive digitized visual diary)
Frame sizes range from 14 x 18 in. to 16 x 20 in. (35.6 x 45.7 cm. to 40.6 x 50.8 cm.)
Paintings from 22 x 17 in. to 24 x 36 in. (55.9 x 43.2 cm. to 61 x 91.4 cm.)
Approximately 300 linear ft (91.4 linear m)
Barbara Johns, The Hope of Another Spring
(Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2017)
Minidoka, montage with fence and landmarks
Minidoka, drawing by flashlight
Puyallup, orders from General DeWitt (1 of 4 versions)
Puyallup, laundry after rain
Minidoka, "This is the silver world I saw" (snow from barrack window)
Minidoka, Fujii and wife surprised by a rattlesnake
Arriving at Puyallup temporary detention camp
Minidoka, grieving women
Abstraction with checkerboard, c.1940s - 1950s
Black and white abstraction, c.1960s
Sandy and Terry Kita Collection
Wing Luke Museum Collection
David F. Martin and Dominic Zambito Collection